KALAELOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Fire Department just started testing a new tool for ocean rescues.
It's a Kymera Body Board.
"We can get this out there a lot faster than when we launch a Jet Ski," firefighter Verena Snively said.
The board is about five feet long, runs off battery power and weighs just a fraction of a Jet Ski. it can launch in shallow water and from rocky shorelines.
"We can walk it to the beach, put it in the water, get our rescuer on the board and get him out there as quickly as possible," HFD Battalion Chief Howard Naone said.
Firefighters have done a handful of test runs off the Kalaeloa coast line.
On Friday fire Capt. Joey Condlin used it to rescue a kayaker in distress at White Plains Beach.
"The biggest point is just the time," he said. "If we can get there quickly and secure the patient and try to get the person out of the hazard zone then it could work."
The board can reach speeds of 20 to 30 mph, depending on the weight of the rider. it cuts through moderately sized surf and is well-suited for near-shore emergencies.
Naone said most beaches on Oahu have accessibility issues, and the Kymera can be deployed from just about anywhere.
"It is tremendous in its capability," he said.
Naone urged the department to buy the board after hearing that first-responders use it in Australia and rescuers on the mainland use it on lakes.
The board can even be controlled remotely by someone on shore.
"When we're able to find something like this that can help us do our job quicker, better, more efficiently, that all translates to saving lives," Naone said.
The Kymera Body Board and batteries cost about $4,500. HFD will do more testing before deciding whether to purchase more of them.
Snively said it won't replace the Jet Ski, but it could give firefighters another option during ocean emergencies.