State to examine safety measures after hundreds rescued during annual swim

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources says it will be taking a closer look at safety measures for the annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

Hundreds of swimmers had to be helped back to shore during Monday’s race after strong currents made it hard for people to finish.

This isn’t the first time this has happened and now the state wants answers.

The Waikiki Roughwater Swim has been a Labor Day tradition since 1970 and swimmers needing help back to shore isn’t anything new.

“Some people, they’re not great swimmers, but that’s why they’re all there. They’re looking for a challenge,” said Raul Boca of the triathlon training group Boca Hawaii.

But the DLNR is taking notice after more than 300 people couldn’t finish the race because of strong currents. It’s just one of the agencies that grants permits for the race.

The agency says it’s planning to meet with race organizers to discuss swimmer safety and why they felt it was still safe to hold the event Monday morning.

After a similar scenario a few years ago, DLNR says race organizers added more safety vessels in the water as a precaution.

Boca says races like this take a lot of planning and preparation, but some bumps can still occur.

“When you go out on the ocean, every day is different,” he said, adding that this isn’t the first time and it wont be the last either.

Boca has planned several endurance events in the past and says the waters in Waikiki are usually pretty safe, however conditions can change in just minutes.

“It can be really beautiful at 6 o’clock in the morning and then two hours later, conditions can change dramatically,” he said.

DLNR says it’s the responsibility of the race organizers to call off the event if they think conditions are unsafe.

But if the race gets the green light, Boca says some responsibility also lies with the swimmer.

“How do you draw the line of which ones are qualified and which ones are not qualified to do the rough water swim? It would make it very complicated,” he said. “If you signed up, you have to be responsible, take responsibility as well.”

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