I may be dating myself a bit, but one of my favorite TV shows was the 1980’s police drama Hill Street Blues. Sergeant Phil Esterhaus’ Mantra, “Hey, let’s be careful out there,” could be the State of Hawaii’s slogan for all persons venturing into the ocean whether they be kama’aina or visitors in winter or summer.
The Pacific Ocean may be beautiful but it is a world class example of an inappropriate name. During the winter months the north shores of the islands feature some of the biggest waves on the planet. They challenge the most skilled surfers and water enthusiasts and feature waves the size of buildings and currents that are incredibly powerful.
During the summer waves decrease dramatically on the North Shore and increase on the South Shore. Snorkelers, sight seers and scuba divers abound throughout the islands. Unsuspecting visitors and locals are often surprised by “rogue waves” or rip currents.
A few weeks ago in a rare May North Swell, my wife Carla was walking on Baldwin Beach with two friends. There was a six year old girl playing unaccompanied in the whitewater by the beach. The three ladies remarked that it was a dangerous situation. In a matter of seconds, the little girl had been engulfed by a wave and was being dragged out to sea by a rip current. Carla immediately dove in after the little girl and grabbed her by the hair. She literally dragged her to safety in a harrowing experience for all parties. Too close a call.
There is a front page story in the Honolulu Advertiser today about the number of drowning deaths in the state of Hawaii every year. Click here.
In the spirit of spreading the word about the dangers of our beautiful ocean, here are a few quick water safety tips:
- Never swim alone
- Supervise your children. Watch them carefully as you would around any body of water
- If you get caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. Either tread water or swim parallel to the ocean until you are out of the rip
- Never turn your back on the ocean
- If there is no one swimming where you are…it might be a good indicator that it is not safe
- Always pay attention to warning signs and lifeguards
- Don’t drink and swim…As the old saying goes “drinkers are sinkers”
The Pacific ocean is spectacularly beautiful. The world below is as magical as you have seen on TV. Have fun. Explore. Enjoy. But in the words of the immortal Phil Esterhaus, “Let’s be careful out there.”