LIHU`E, HI – The Kaua`i Lifeguard Association (KLA) has settled upon 11 non-profit organizations/programs on Kaua`i that focus on ocean safety, training, and education. This is the first of 11 articles on the newly formed “KLA Ohana” — groups that will benefit from the 2012 Second Wave “Help Save Lives” campaign. This article is on the “WAVE” Program.
If you love the water, Kaua`i is one of the most stunning, exotic, and pristine spots in the world to enjoy it — whether snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, kiting, or just simply swimming, it’s truly a water wonderland. It can also be deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing. And unfortunately most of us don’t.
Whether you’re a resident here or a visitor, everyone needs to learn the basics of water safety in order to avert tragedy – at least that’s what longtime Kaua`i resident and aquatic expert Pat Durkin thinks. And Durkin should know — over time he’s been a Kaua`i lifeguard, owner of a swim school, tour boat operator, aquatic forensic investigator, and leader of the Jr. Lifeguard program since first coming to Kaua`i in 1978 with his wife Janet.
Even one life lost is one too many for Durkin. “Education is a proactive approach to drowning prevention,” he said. “I think of all the lives – all the families that are forever affected by their loved one drowning — I think of how preventable it might have been, and I’m motivated.”
So Durkin founded the “Water Awareness Visitor Education” Program (WAVE) in 2006 and is its program director. WAVE’s mission is educating visitors and residents on water safety for the goal of saving lives. WAVE was modeled after two well-known aquatic programs in Hawaii — the Waikiki Beachboys and the Monk Seal protection program. The concept is prevention through education.
The Beachboys were the original beach concierge/lifeguards. They offered recreational activities and became de facto overseers of beach safety. They got to know many of the guests, kept an eye out for them, and gave guidance for safe enjoyment of water sports.
The Monk Seal program is far better funded and it shows. Visitors and residents alike quickly come to know what to do when you see a monk seal on the beach, often even before landing on Kaua`i. Volunteers immediately get into place with yellow tape, a schedule for protecting the seal, and educate those who walk up. “The Monk Seal protection program is excellent, well-funded, and the feet on the sand are all volunteers. They’re a great success,” Durkin says. “I’d like to see human lives valued just as much as the monk seals when it comes to funding, volunteers, and taking care of one another.”
Over 1,200 residents and approximately 100 businesses have now participated in WAVE training and education, including resorts. In addition to preventative training and education, WAVE has also developed and promotes education materials such as the Kaua`i Ocean Report, KVIC Ocean Safety Video, Surviving the Rip video from KHON2, and the North Shore Rip Current poster.
KLA hopes to provide WAVE some added funding to help see the program continue. “Our goal in 2011 was to drive awareness and community support to equip our lifeguards with needed jet skis and ATVs – that was last year’s “KLA First Wave” fundraising goal. And our island community was incredibly generous and supportive,” said Monty Downs, president of KLA and emergency room physician at Wilcox Hospital. “This year, we’ve selected approximately 11 organizations and programs that help create a sort of lifecycle in ocean safety awareness, skills training, and education. Ultimately it all comes together on Kaua`i to help save lives.”
Last year Kaua`i had a significant reduction in the number of drownings thanks to the success of the KLA First Wave Campaign. For details on how you can help save lives by supporting or participating in this year’s KLA Second Wave ocean safety program go to KauaiLifeguards.org. Ocean-minded businesses and individuals can also contact Andy Melamed at 808-482-0218 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.