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Sunday, August 5, 2007

How safe are Hawaii Beaches - A Life or Death Story

Aloha to all our Best Hawaii Vacations blog readers. We were so happy about all the great responses on our recent post about 5 Hawaii myths. We really received some great suggestions for Hawaii myth #5. When we had a closer look at all the good suggestions, we decided Sheila's suggestion is definitely one of special interest for anybody who visits Hawaii, no matter on what Hawaiian island they stay.

Here is what Sheila said "I would say that most people assume that all the beautiful beaches are completely safe. Some beaches have dangerous currents, but people just hop in the water without checking for any safety concerns. They ignore beach safety signs and then get in trouble. I like to encourage people to check the official beach safety website.

This is to all Hawaii visitors from Pua: You don't want to have to learn this through your own lesson. Here is one scary story, no legend, no myth but real, scary real!

It was on one of those gorgeous blue sky winter days with extremely high surf on all the west shores of Hawaii Big Island. Huge rollers coming in with close to shore breaking. We were tennis club members at 'The Ritz Carlton', nowadays Orchid Fairmont at Mauna Lani at Mauna Lani Beach Resort. It was a wonderful place to play tennis and enjoy the nice crescent white sand beach afterwards! So that's what we did on this Sunday morning. Keoki settled in a beach chair and I went for swimming laps in the small lagoon. No big waves coming in there, just the tide moving in and out! Believe me I would never have never gone in otherwise. Even young children were still playing in the waters...

The Mauna Lani Ritz Carlton had beach attendants but no lifeguards. There were warning signs everywhere that the beach has 'No lifeguard on duty'. One can't blame them. When you see that lagoon beach, you'd never think it could do harm to anybody. It seems the most extremely safe Hawaiian beach. Again, the crescent lagoon beach has shallow waters which gradually gets deeper. The lagoon is protected by big lava rocks on both sides and in the middle before it opens to the ocean.

Remember my words 'just the tide moving in and out'. Well, here is what happened. The waves outside the protected lagoon grew bigger and bigger by the minute, which must have generated a terrible riptide. When I was on my 7th or 8th lap across the lagoon side to side, the riptide picked me up like a piece of nothing and pulled me at extreme speed in the direction of the open ocean.

I had no chance against that force and the lesson lifeguards always taught me not to resist the tide but allow yourself being pulled out till the riptide loses power, would not have worked this time. The huge waves would have crushed me in no time. What saved me, you ask, as I am obviously still walking on this planet...there were big iron chains hanging between the lava rocks on the sides and the middle one, I have no clue whatsoever what they were for but they saved my life!

In the second before being pulled out into the open ocean, I grabbed the chain and was clinging on for pure life against the power of the tide. I had to hold on to the chain with all my force...my whole body stretched in one big horizontal pull. When the riptide weakened, I took all my courage and leftover strength (not much left then!) to swim out of the danger zone before the next wave set would start.

I was one shaking person, heart pumping, hands trembling, legs wobbling but...alive!!! Keoki had not noticed. He had read his magzine all the time I had literally struggled for my life. He had a hard time to understand my aggitation and the impact what had happened. One beach attendant friend had seen me and said 'This was close!" but i doubt that he really knew how close it had been.

So, show big respect to the ocean waves and its powers. Ocean conditions can change in seconds, when even lifeguards cannot help anymore. Don't try to prove to yourself or others, how strong and brave you are. Hawaiian winter waves with undercurrents, riptides and close-to-shore breaking waves are stronger than you. Better be safe than sorry. Aloha, Pua Kohala Coast Vacation Guide

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