Rescue Tube Station locations on Kauai, thank you to Dr. Downs & Rotary friends.
This is a map of rescue tubes on Kauai beaches where a lifeguard may not be on duty. Ocean swimming in Hawaii is dangerous, and having this lifesaving equipment on beaches has rescued dozens of stranded swimmers.
A dramatic ocean rescue last March in Hanakapi‘ai Beach, in the remoteness of Na Pali Coast, saved the lives of a visiting father and his two young sons.
Key to the potential life saving was a rescue tube strategically placed on the beach that the family used to stay afloat until lifeguards arrived at the scene.
Lifeguard instructor John Tyler, who had the initiative to place the $50 floating device at that beach and elsewhere throughout the island, will not receive an official thank you from the county Fire Commission despite its members desire to do so.
The commission at last month’s meeting officially commended the firefighters. This prompted Fire Commissioner George Simpson to suggest that Tyler receive at least a recognition letter. But Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask advised the commissioners to defer the decision to the following month.
“I just want to make sure we can avoid, through the benevolent action of commending someone for that, we don’t passively put our seal of approval,” Trask told the commissioners at the May meeting.
Trask said hopefully the liability issue wouldn’t be a problem. But after the meeting Monday, following an executive session, the commission decided the best action was to “take no action.”
This means it’s official that there will be no formal county mahalo to Tyler.
“I don’t mind that they didn’t give me an official proclamation,” Tyler humbly said. “I’m just glad that I can be of help in the community, whether it’s officially seen or not.”
About three years ago, Tyler placed a rescue tube on Larsen’s Beach, hanging from a tree. That was just the beginning of something about to become much larger.
Tyler said after the commission had deferred thanking him for the initiative, “the Rotary Club came forward and said, ‘Hey, we’ll give you thanks,’ and they handed us a $4,000 check.”
The Los Angeles lifeguard instructor, who’s also the vice chair of the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association, has teamed up with long-time water safety advocate Dr. Monty Downs. Together, they place rescue tubes around the island and train people on how to use them.
There are currently about 65 of those tubes on Kaua‘i beaches, strategically hanging from poles. Only about a month ago, there were just 25 of those tubes.
Tyler said he may have had the original idea, but it was Downs who “took the ball and ran with it.”
After what Simpson called a “spectacular” rescue last March at Hanakapi‘ai Beach, another tube was placed there. Downs and Tyler are planning on taking a zodiac there this summer and placing another tube, plus one at Kalalau Beach, farther down the coast.
“It’s such a strong shorebreak, people get sucked out and if they don’t have a rescue tube it’s very difficult for them to get back in,” Tyler said of Hanakapi‘ai, one of the deadliest beaches in the entire state.
Hanakapi‘ai, besides the strong current and shorebreak, also has an accessibility problem. Rescuers can only get there via helicopter, boat or two-mile hike.
Tyler said they tried to install satellite phones at the beach, but the county said it would be a liability issue.
“They wouldn’t allow us,” he said. “But we were able to put the rescue tubes up there and they have not said no.”
Tyler said now it may be time to revisit the idea of a satellite phone. “Who knows if they’ll be approved this time?”
Putting up the rescue tubes is only part of the program. Tyler and Downs have already trained about 85 local residents on how to properly use them.
Anyone who’s 15 years old and interested in becoming certified as a Beach Guardian is eligible for the training. But students also have to be healthy swimmers, Tyler said.
“We teach them CPR and first aid for free, and also lifeguarding. It’s a one-day course, usually on a Saturday,” said Tyler, adding that he’ll be teaching more courses in the next few months.
“My aim is to have probably 200 to 300 people trained,” he said.
Classes were previously held in Hanalei, Kealia, Kalapaki and Po‘ipu, and these will probably be the same places where Tyler will teach this summer.
Ocean Safety Bureau Supervisor Kalani Vierra also helps in the Beach Guardian program, as a volunteer.
“This program is modeled after the New Zealand Surf Life Saving organization. It’s a totally volunteer organization,” Tyler said.
In New Zealand there are 6,000 volunteer lifeguards. They all have their own daily jobs, but put in their time guarding the beaches in Hawaii. The volunteer lifeguards go through a two-week program, and are trained to be “fully regular lifeguards,” Tyler said.
The New Zealand SLS has been around for about 100 years, according to Tyler.
“I flew down there about a year ago and asked them what the program was like, and I thought, ‘Yeah, we can do that,’” said Tyler, adding that’s the goal of the Beach Guardian program.
“We’re all trying to add our best things to have as few people drown out there,” he said.