Lifeguards have been doing more than saving lives

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A mural honoring Eddie Aikau and Brock Little was carefully stenciled and painted at Waimea Bay several months ago.

Aikau, the first-ever lifeguard at Waimea Bay, never lost anyone he had to rescue.

Little, who charged huge waves at Waimea, was also an inspiration to younger surfers.

“Both Brock and Eddie were ocean safety lifeguards at one point in their life,” said Lt. Kerry Atwood, Honolulu Ocean Safety. “Especially Eddie working in a time when there was no ATV’s, jet skis, PA system, mobile patrols backing you up, it was just him, a pair of fins, a rescue tube, and a rescue board. That kind of almost puts him at that superhero status.”

“I think Eddie set the precedent for lifeguarding all over the island,” explained his former co-worker and former Honolulu Ocean Safety Lifeguard Mark Dombroski.

But on Friday, Jan. 17, lifeguards arrived at the Waimea Bay tower to find the mural vandalized and both watermen’s faces marked over.

“When they called me about Brock’s thing I was modified,” said North Shore Community Board member and friend of Brock Little, Raquel Hill. “Who in their right mind? Why? What did you gain from that? What do you gain from it? I mean do you sleep good at night? Did you feel better when it was over?”

She said the community strength is stronger than the person or persons who vandalized the mural.

“We’ll clean it, we’ll replace it, and it will be standing again, you do it again we’ll clean it again but you’re not going to make the strength of the unity that brought all of that to light go away because the support behind all of that is very strong,” she said.

Waimea lifeguards did their best to quickly clean it up.

“The guys working here really take pride in our area and we want other people to enjoy the mural so we had the guys working here do a pretty good job at cleaning it up, but unfortunately parts of the mural have been damaged,” Lt. Atwood said.  

The photos of the vandalized mural quickly spread across social media.

“It’s been incredible all the people that have been reaching out to us expressing their concern, their support anything they can do to help clean up the graffiti it’s pretty amazing and it’s shown the aloha spirit,” Lt. Atwood said.  

Former lifeguards like Dombroski said vandalism at lifeguard towers is nothing new, but it is happening more often and people are wondering what can be done to prevent it.

Unfortunately, we’ve had a few towers that have been broken into,” explained Lt. Atwood. “Equipment is stolen, vandalized, our Sunset Beach lifeguard tower was broken into three times this past year with equipment was stolen and our Chun’s Reef tower has been broken into vandalized.”

“It definitely hinders our ability to do our job. It makes it difficult to get a handle on the beach quickly, access the situation and provide adequate service when our equipment or our tower has been broken into,” he explained.

Hill estimates tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment have been stolen within the last year.

“The lifeguards don’t get the support that they need,” the board member said. “They’re out there they should be focusing on the bodies in the water, the people that are around them. Instead, they come to damaged facilities, stolen equipment, defaced property, rubbish, vandalism however you want to put it, feces on the ground, and leftovers from people who obviously took shelter in their area and that include bathroom messes.”

“The budget restraints are an issue but I think what can be done immediately is more of a community input of if you see something call it, no matter what you think it is,” she said.

She said if you see suspicious activity near a lifeguard tower to call the police.

She also suggested solar motion detector lights as a helpful solution to deter thieves.

The plaque at Pipeline honoring the Pipe Master winners was also vandalized.

If anyone has any information on these crimes, call the police.

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