Junior lifeguards practice safety while boosting endurance
For the members of the 2014 Junior Lifeguard Program, summer means boosting endurance and practicing to save lives. Being808 took a trek to Makaha Beach to catch up with this year’s future lifeguards and see if the program’s first year with nonprofit Kama‘aina Kids is holding water.
Kama‘aina Kids teamed up with Na Kama Kai and the Hawaii Lifeguard Association to save the program after it lost city funding.
Two-week training programs for junior lifeguards are now being held around the island. Under the city, the program used to last eight weeks. And the groups hope to get additional grant funding to be able to extend the program in coming years.
So what types of activities can 13-17 year-old participants expect? Junior lifeguard instructor Chad Keaulana says most of the activities incorporate ocean safety.
“We do activities with rescue tubes and conscious/unconscious rescues. Also, using longboards and boogie boards,” he said.
But saving lives in the water isn’t just about the brightly colored equipment. Lifeguards are required to have a great deal of stamina, which is why Keaulana kicks off every training day with an endurance building workout: a 1,000-meter run out and a 1,000-meter swim back.
In addition, he said, “We make them do pushups, burpees and sit-ups. We just did burners, which is a short-distance sprint. You’re pretty much running to the shoreline, jumping in, swimming as fast as you can around the buoy and running back. It simulates a rescue because you want to get there as quick as you can.”
Junior lifeguard Nicholas Sabatini, 15, started participating in the program seven years ago, and can attest to its physical benefits. “It’s a perfect way to stay in shape over the summer and not just stay in the house and play games all day,” he said.
Madison Smith, 16, of Pearl City, is experiencing her first year as a junior lifeguard and says besides the physical activity, she has also gained some important beach-goer advice.
“I’m learning a lot about the sun and cancer, how important it is to protect your skin,” she said.
So how many of these youngsters go on to saving lives at our local beaches? Keaulana says in his 10 years of experience with the program on the leeward side of the island, he has seen 10 students become actual lifeguards.
While Keaulana says he hopes that number grows, the real value of the program is giving young people tools to be safe in the water.
The message ingrained in the minds of all the junior lifeguards is: If it’s not safe, don’t go out. Think before you react.