Ocean Safety: ‘Adventure seekers’ exploring offshore islands are putting themselves ― and others ― at risk

With summer break in full swing, lifeguards say they’re responding to an increase in rescues at places like the Mokuluas and Chinaman’s Hat.
Published: Jun. 13, 2023 at 3:50 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With summer break in full swing, lifeguards say they’re responding to an increase in rescues at places like the Mokuluas and Chinaman’s Hat.

It’s why Honolulu Ocean Safety showed HNN firsthand some of the dangers that come with venturing out to these offshore islands and provided tips to make sure your next adventure doesn’t land you in the hospital ― or worse.

“We’re seeing a lot more people that are looking to explore,” said Kurt Lager, Honolulu Ocean Safety assistant chief for Support Services.

It’s a trend that’s prompting an influx of emergencies on Oahu’s offshore islands ― at places like the Mokuluas and Mokolii, also known as Chinaman’s Hat.

“Now more than ever. There are adventure seekers, social media people. And it’s all about getting the best shot with no one around,” said Honolulu Ocean Safety water safety officer Kirk Ziegler.


Sometimes, it doesn’t turn out so well.

Since 2019, Ocean Safety’s ski team has responded to 63 emergencies at the Mokulua Islands.

Officials say 25% of those rescues happened in the last five months alone.

“The majority of the calls are for kayakers that go out there,” said Lager.

Most of those are rentals, manned by tourists and launched from the canal near Kailua Beach Park.

That’s about a mile paddle to Moku Nui.

Lager said, “They maybe under-anticipate the winds, the distance, the ocean conditions. Their own physical abilities.”

Uneducated decisions are leading to rescues that put the skills of Honolulu Ocean Safety Jet Ski operators to the test, often forcing lifeguards to battle strong currents and heavy surf. “It can get bad fast,” Ziegler said.

HNN Investigates
HNN Investigates(HNN Investigates)

Especially in places like the Mokulua Islands.

“We have calls in there,” Ziegler said, as he pointed to an area filled with jagged rocks on the backside of Moku Nui. “People jump off. Don’t know what the bottoms like and they break their legs.”

Hanalei Fujimoto paddles out about once a week.

“A lot of kayakers, they’re not too sure what’s going on,” said Fujimoto. “They try to get to the island and they’re just tossed back and forth (by the waves and the strong current).”

He adds that accidents are common.

“In fact, yesterday some guy went climbing on the side of the wall, which they’re not supposed to,” Fujimoto said. “He fell down and broke his arm. I actually called the rescue guys.”

That wasn’t the only rescue that day.

“The other person was just extremely exhausted, which is a very common situation for us,” Ziegler said.

It’s why lifeguards want the public to do their research before heading out.

“What kind of day is it? What are the winds doing? How big are the waves? And if you’re not familiar with that come stop by the lifeguard towers and find out before you go,” Lager said.

And depending where you’re trying to go know how far it is. And how to get back.

“Sometimes, it’s really easy to get out to some of these islands,” Lager said, “and then you turn around and the weather and the ocean conditions are way different than you anticipated.”