Rising number of ocean rescues an island-wide problem

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We hear about hikers being rescued, but lifeguards say they are seeing just as many thrill-seekers getting into trouble in the water, and it’s not just inexperienced swimmers putting themselves at risk.

Emergency Medical Services report that water rescues have increased. Last year, lifeguards counted rescues well into the hundreds.

And while lifeguard Aka Tamashiro helps protects Windward beaches, he said the spike in rescues is an island-wide problem.

“I think a big part of it goes hand-in-hand with social media,” he said. “Everybody is out there looking for that cool shot to post online of themselves.”

A local teen told KHON2 he believes the spike in water rescues are because of tourists. “I see a lot of tourists, they get into the water, and sometimes get in trouble and need help,” said Hawaii Kai resident Luke Kenton-Sashion.

But, according to Tamashiro, lifeguards aren’t just rescuing visitors.

“It’s all the way across the board — it’s the beginner, the expert, the visitor — the ocean does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, who we are, what kind of skills. Experience does help, and you are less likely to get hurt, but we are rescuing everyone across the board.”

Lifeguards say while Hanauma Bay is a popular snorkeling spot, it’s also a very dangerous area. There are two channels on either side of the bay, and during low tide, they become major hazards. Back in March, a couple drowned while snorkeling.

Tamashiro said popular east side attractions like Spitting Caves and China Walls are also problem spots for lifeguards.

“People are trying to jump off and are not able to get up. We aren’t able to get there fast enough in some cases. It really comes down to people using good judgement,” he said.

And with summer just around the corner, lifeguards expect more thrill-seekers to head into the water.

“With the influx of GoPros and everybody having free-time, everybody’s that much more adventurous now, which we’re all for. But reminding everyone, with that adventure, be safe, and not only think of yourself, but your families and the ones that have to come out and help you.”

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