Lifeguard program saved by old guard
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
Thanks to the efforts of several North Shore lifeguards, two Hale'iwa restaurants and recording artist Jack Johnson, a summer tradition, the Junior Lifeguard Program, will continue this year at Ehukai Beach Park.
The program had been held at five locations around O'ahu each summer, but due to a reduction in the number of city and county lifeguards, plans were to hold the program only at Ala Moana Beach Park this year.
But in stepped Abe Lerner, a well-known North Shore lifeguard who was a member of the first Junior Lifeguard program along with Johnson years ago.
During the big-wave season, Lerner operates a rescue watercraft along North Shore beaches. And in the off-season, he shuttles from beach to beach in his Water Safety Truck keeping a watchful eye on things.
"I just thought kids get ripped off too much these days and knew they and their parents would be very disappointed if they couldn't participate in the program this year," Lerner said.
He learned only last Wednesday of the city's plans to grossly scale back the program.
"The community out here has always been strongly behind the program and by the weekend, I was thinking about what we could do to save it," Lerner said.
He made one call to his friend, Jack Johnson, who agreed to help underwrite the costs of the program along with restaurants Haleiwa Joe's and Cholo's.
"The Junior Lifeguard Program is such an amazing opportunity for our keiki," Johnson said. "I know this firsthand because I was a junior lifeguard the year that the program started in Hawai'i.
"What better way to gain a profound respect for the ocean than by spending time in it with the knowledgeable lifeguards of Hawai'i," Johnson said.
After Johnson threw his support behind the program, Lerner began asking fellow lifeguards if they would be willing to contribute time on their days off.
Among the members of the North Shore Lifeguard Association who are leading the volunteer effort are Tau Hannemann, cousin of Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and Bryan Phillips. Also helping out are retired city lifeguard Mark Cunningham and part-time lifeguard Kyle Pao.
Lerner emphasized that the Ehukai program is being sponsored by the North Shore Lifeguard Association and not the City and County of Honolulu.
And it's definitely "not a learn-to swim" program, he stressed.
The program is open to boys and girls, 13 to 17 years old, who should be able to swim 500 yards in less than 10 minutes.
"We try to discourage kids from signing up for consecutive sessions because we want to give as many kids as possible a chance to experience the program," Lerner said.
Most class days begin with junior lifeguards sprinting 100 yards down to the water, then swimming 100 yards and then running another 100 yards back up the beach.
"It helps simulate rescue situations," Lerner said.
The young lifeguards also receive other lifesaving instruction, such as CPR, as well as watercraft rescue procedures and life skills.
"We have a lot of kids who participate in the program year after year," Lerner said.
Participants bring their own lunch from home Monday through Thursday and are usually treated to a meal supplied by area restaurants on Fridays.
HOW TO SIGN UP
Sign-up for the Ehukai Beach Park junior lifeguard program sponsored by the North Shore Lifeguard Association is set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Pupukea Foodland store. Parents must sign a permission slip.
A $25 donation in cash or check is asked to help cover program expenses. Checks should be made out to the North Shore Lifeguard Association.
The program will operate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday during eight one-week classes, from June 7 to July 30. There are openings for 20 participants in each of the weeklong sessions.
Ala Moana Beach Park
Registration for the city-sponsored Junior Lifeguard program that will be offered at Ala Moana Beach Park will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Ocean Safety Division's Training Center at Ala Moana Beach Park, mauka of lifeguard tower 1B.
There is a suggested voluntary donation of $25 per child. Please make check payable to the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association
The eight one-week sessions at Ala Moana will be limited to 40 participants per session and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration must be done in-person.