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Ocean Safety 101: Hawai’i Waters Part 1

If you were born and raised in Hawai’i or spent a significant amount of time here, this list is the norm. You most likely know the rules of the ocean, that respect is demanded when enjoying a day at the beach and this list will serve as a reminder. 

For those who don’t or are new, this is a comprehensive list of what to do and what not to do when it comes to ocean safety. Given the number of incidents that have been occurring across the state, we felt that we can do our part by ensuring that people are informed before they go out for a day in the water.

Never turn your back to the ocean... ever.

First major rule when it comes to Hawai’i’s waters…. never, EVER turn your back to the ocean. EVER. Always have someone watching your back if you absolutely need to face the opposite direction. Also, make sure that they are paying attention to the shore break and waves or incoming whitewash. See the full video here on IG @808viral:

Warning signs are everywhere, pay attention.

This is literally the rule that a lot of people disregard and some, regret that they do. The warning signs are posted at every beach where there is a lifeguard present, yet people take the signs for granted. If you have questions, ask the lifeguard.

Check out to understand the beach warning signs posted.

Never assume that it is safe.

When the water looks calm or glassy, never assume that it is safe to swim.  You never know what the conditions are beneath the surface- yes, the currents beneath the surface can be crazy!!

Never swim alone at an unfamiliar place.

If you’ve never been to the spot, always play it safe.  Observe the conditions before you go out because, obviously, not all beaches are the same. Regardless of what you’ve seen on social media or what a friend tells you through the grapevine, do not swim alone. For millions of safety reasons, it is always better to go with someone or swim where there is a lifeguard posted.

If the shorebreak is crazy, DO NOT GO OUT.

For some people, the obvious isn’t so obvious.  It would be wise NOT to go out, no matter what it looks like beyond the shore break. Just because it’s rough on the shore, doesn’t mean that it isn’t the same past the crashing waves and whitewash. In conditions like that, the currents and undertow will guarantee be nuts, as well. Don’t chance it!!!!!

On the reef or exploring the tidepools...

On days where the waves are crashing onto the reef, usually in the afternoon time, it can get pretty crazy.  Mainly because the reef/tidepools is basically where the shore break is. See the video below:

This video was taken in slow motion at the Old A’s beach during a high surf advisory, on the tidepools. I thought it would be the perfect video to show just how powerful the whitewash can be. I was sitting about 20 feet away from the edge of the reef, where I thought the whitewash wouldn’t hit so hard. I was also wearing felt bottomed tabbies (or reef shoes) for safety. Still, at the 20 feet distance, the whitewash is still enough to push me with its disintegrated force.  If I had been standing and not paying attention, I would’ve been knocked off my feet, dragged through the tidepools and severely injured.

Fishing or collecting shells? Still need to pay attention.

I do both when I hit the beach. If the waves are crazy, I look for shells to add to my collection and ditch the pole- it’s common sense to me. Why try to cast a line out when the waves are probably going to drag it back in anyway? Right? Anyways, the rules of the ocean still apply to either activity- pay attention to the waves and the whitewash and never, NEVER face your back towards the ocean.

Wear felt-bottomed reef shoes/tabbies...

Slippers or tennis shoes are just not going to cut it on the reef/tidepools. Sure, it may look safe and dry to walk on, but as you get closer to where the whitewash comes in, it does and will get slippery. Common sense, seriously. I cannot even stress this enough. Get the reef shoes/tabbies and make sure they’re felt-bottomed- I promise you, you’ll thank me later.

Trying to get the perfect shot for the 'Gram? Don't.

Just don’t do it. Seriously. Sure, a shot with the waves pounding behind you might catch a lot of likes, but the consequences you’ll pay in the form of injuries are not worth it. Be safe, take selfies from a distance and, I don’t know, photoshop those waves (or yourself) in.

See the clip on IG @808viral:

You're belongings? Keep them safe away from the shore or at home.

Or put it in a cooler, up to you. If you absolutely need to have your stuff, put it where the whitewash can’t reach it- on the driest rock there is and further away from edge or shore. The tide waits for no one to come in, recede and it will certainly not care what it takes with it. You won’t want to try and snatch your things as they are being whisked away, because you are going to get hurt.

Watch your kids, seriously.

While the beach is a place where we can all unwind, it is not the place to let your kids run wild while you enjoy a Truly on your towel. Besides the obvious reasons why you should be watching them, the ocean is truly an unpredictable beast. Pay attention and re-read the above rules, a million times if you must. 

Hawai'i's marine life... leave em alone!

If you haven’t seen the stories on the news or the videos circulating on social media, The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle and the Hawaiian Monk Seal are on the Endangered Species List, amongst a few others native to Hawai’i. Do not get too close and let them be. Use the zoom feature on your camera or phone, there really is no need to get close.  Visit the NOAA Endangered Species List for more information: Hawai’i NOAA.

Part 1: Done. Need more info?

A day at the beach is always a good time, if you’re careful. Even the most experienced swimmers get caught in the ocean’s undertow or unpredictable currents. Remember that all beaches are not the same, respect the ocean and all that live in it and pay attention!! Ocean safety starts with you and affects everyone- you, your ohana, good samaritans and lifeguards/first responders. 

Check out these resources at the following link for more information: 
HI Ocean Safety:

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Hilo Ocean Adventures Hilo, HI (808)934-8344

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