Surf's up, but Ocean Safety officials say they're stretched thin - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Surf's up, but Ocean Safety officials say they're stretched thin

Ocean Safety officials say they need more lifeguards and equipment to monitor the waters right. Ocean Safety officials say they need more lifeguards and equipment to monitor the waters right.
MAKAHA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

They're the first ones to jump into the waves when something goes wrong, and the recent spate of water emergencies illustrates just how valuable lifeguards are. But officials say the city's Ocean Safety Services is stretched thin.

"Do we have enough personal watercraft? No we don't. Do we have enough manpower? No we don't," said Brian Keaulana, a retired Ocean Safety captain.

Keaulana can attest to the challenges lifeguards face every day -- and how valuable personal watercraft are.

"We have the speed to outrun waves. We have the strength to go through waves. We have the agility to outmaneuver the waves," he said.

Ocean Safety has just six personal watercraft to cover Oahu's 200 miles of coastline.

The North Shore zone, which extends from the Mokuleia side of Kaena Point to Kaneohe Bay, is covered by two watercraft. Kailua Bay has one, Waimanalo to Kahala has one, Kahala to Pearl Harbor has one, and Iriquois Point to Kaena Point has one.

That’s a dramatic shortage, and the department is hoping to double the number.

"If we can have crafts that are actually stationed at beaches, we can cut the response time dramatically," said Ocean Safety Acting Chief Kevin Allen.

A lack of equipment is just one part of the problem.

The department has a relatively paltry $10 million budget and 161 full time lifeguards. The department wants to add 50 full-time and 50 part-time lifeguards.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he'd review any "request made by lifeguards for additional watercraft or other things they need."

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly