WAIMEA BAY, Oahu (KHNL) - Welcome back to our first "Job Swap" segment of the fall. Tonight I'm joined by Kerry Atwood, a man you don t want to come face to face with in the water, because if you do you're probabaly in trouble.
"That's right Dash, chances are if you run in to me or one of my coworkers, you probably didn't check with the lifeguard, you probably disregarded our warning signs. I'm a lifegaurd at Waimea Bay, we're coming into our surf season, this is the time of the year that we get really busy out there, this is what we do on an average day.
Our day on the beach started like most others. In this job, cardio is key.
"All lifeguards that work here on the north shore and all over the island should be conditioned, that's a very big part of our job, maintaining physical conditioning"says Atwood.
And just my luck, on this day surf was up.
"It's experts only today."
Okay, I picked the right day didn't I?
For these guys it s a relatively mellow day. And a perfect learning day. Beginning with the old standard: fins and floatation tube. North shore surfer Jilly Wunderlich plays victim.
"And I'm going to tilt her back, keep one hand here and I swim her in. Kicking and pulling" says Atwood, demonstrating on the beach.
After some brief instruction, it's time to go.
"Go, Howard go, man! She's really in trouble!"
It is here when precious seconds can prove to be the difference between life and death. But as instructed, I reached and secured her. Then it s a matter of bringing her in. And when the surf is up, timing is critical.
"I don't want to bring her in when there's a big set and a lot of times the guy in the tower will be your spotter".
After a couple of exhausting minutes, we were all back safely on shore.
Next it was onto the jet ski. Without this piece of equiptment lives would be lost, especially on big days. Professional surfer Marvin Foster knows that firshand. During an Eddie Akau big wave contest he was heading for the rocks after a huge set snapped his leash and buried him repeatedly.
Abe Lerner has been on the ski for 15 years now.
"Very gratifying. This jet ski is the like the workhorse nowadays with the surf and with so many people in the water. We still do rescues the old fashion way but this thing makes it so much easier and this thing is a real workhorse when the surf gets up" says Lerner.
Although my day was fun, these guys take their job very seriously and for good reason. They are in the business of saving lives.
"This is it. This is what we do. We're coming into our season and we've had a long summer. Everyone's in pretty good shape and we're looking forward to a busy winter. I've gotten a great opportunity over the years to save a lot of lives and we don t make a lot of money but it definitely gives you something money can't buy" says Atwood.
What these guys do is really amazing, especially on the big wave days, but Kerry will be the first to say we would rather never have to make a rescue.
"That's right Dash, a big part of my job is prevention. When we feel that we actually have to get in the water to do a rescue, we've kind of let our gaurd down" says Atwood.
The bottom line is people can get in trouble anywhere, whether the conditions are big or small. Bottom line is they really need to respect the ocean.
"A lot of people have a lack of respect for the ocean, they disregard our warning signs and they overestimate their ability.