HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Ocean Safety has kept busy making dozens of rescues in the first week of 2021.
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A high surf warning was in effect Sunday, Jan. 10.
North Shore lifeguards made 24 rescues and warned about 2,000 people of the extremely hazardous conditions.
On Friday, North Shore lifeguard Fred Booth rescued a woman who was swept out at Ke Iki Beach.
The rescue was caught on tape by Ingo Rademacher.
The woman told KHON2 she was in knee deep water when the strong current sucked her in. Razor-sharp rocks, which were right below, made the rescue even more dangerous.
The week before, on Dec. 31, a woman was swept in at the same spot when a rogue wave crashed onshore.
Pro-surfer Mikey Wright was at the right place at the right time and saved her.
Both videos went viral showing viewers just how dangerous it can be to get too close to the water when waves are big.
“I think the video was a great example of how bad things can go,” said Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Kerry Atwood. “A lot of people do show up at the beach when the surf is big and they happen to show up between a lull. They don’t realize how big the waves are or how high they can wash up. It’s easy for them to venture down onto wet sand and get caught by a big set and washed out.”
Shorebreak photographer Clark Little has been shooting at Ke Iki for over a decade. He watched both videos and has made several rescues at the beach as well.
He noted the nearest lifeguard tower is a half-mile away so lifeguards patrol Ke Iki beach on ATV’s.
“To have a tower here would be insane, they definitely need one here one day,” Little said. “It’s just a matter of funding (and) time. I’m not sure how the City and County would handle that but the guards are fully equipped and ready and would want that, I think, because this is a scary beach and it would be good to have someone staffed and full-time watching.”
“Ke Iki is the most powerful wave in the world, I think, when it comes to shore break,” he added.
Like Lt. Atwood, Little said the lull between sets is what makes Ke Iki so dangerous.
“It’s very unpredictable and you have to do your homework and watch before you go out,” he explained. “It swipes people in who are not paying attention, and there is so much rip, so much water coming into the trough. It just pulls people right out.”
Ocean Safety recommends people go to a guarded beach when the surf is big.
“I think it’s good for the public to see (those videos) and realize how bad a situation can go when people aren’t taking the proper precautions,” Lt. Atwood said. “We do patrol more remote areas but as far as safety goes, you’re better off at a beach with a permanent lifeguard.”
If you see someone in trouble at a non-guarded beach or during off-hours, officials advise calling 911.
Rescue craft operators patrol 40 miles of Oahu’s North Shore and depending on the situation, can respond within minutes. Ocean Safety is also patrolling the water when surf is big.
Lifeguards put their lives on the line every day, whether the surf is two-feet or 50-feet.
“I’m super proud to be a part of this team. My guys have done an incredible job this winter. It’s been stressful and everybody has risen to the occasion,” Lt. Atwood said proudly.
“There’s signs here (at Ke Iki) for a reason. Lifeguards put them out, so just be aware, and watch the waves for a long time and ask a lifeguard before you go out,” Little advised.