Recognizing Risks Before It’s Too Late

I’ll be the first to admit that when I was a teenager my friends and I took many unnecessary risks. We jumped off our share of bridges, piers and cliffs, and entered the ocean when we were advised to stay out.

But with age comes wisdom. Or, at least for some of us, fear.

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Cliff jumping can be fun and exciting PHOTO COURTESY KENN MATSUGUMA

Remember the 1978 documentary Scared Straight, the powerful film that featured a program where convicts told troubled teens about the horrors of prison life?

Sometimes understanding what is safe takes a good scare.

Unfortunately or fortunately, three 15-year-old boys and a 17-year-old boy recently got quite a scare after being rescued from the raging ocean at an area known as “Rifle Range” between Hanauma Bay and Lanai Lookout. The cliff diving spot across from Koko Head Shooting Range is extremely popular with teenagers.

“I believe they all had abrasions on their legs,” says Ocean Safety and Emergency Medical Services spokes-woman Shayne Enright. “Three of the boys jumped and the fourth boy got washed into the water by a large wave.”

Witnesses saw the boys jumping off the cliff and quickly recognized they were in trouble. One teen was seen trying to climb up the rock wall only to be pulled into the boiling ocean time and time again by the relentless surf.

“The kids were extremely fortunate there was a scuba diver on a boat nearby who knew they were in trouble and was smart enough to call 911,” says Enright. “Our Ocean

Safety Jet Ski launched from Sandy Beach and rescued the four boys all at one time.”

Those boys got lucky. Sadly, many have not been as fortunate. That stretch of rugged coastline has seen its share of serious and critical injuries and even death.

Enright says the issue is happening with both visitors and residents, from China Walls at Portlock all the way to the Makapuu tide pools.

“People do not fully understand the risk they are taking when they jump into the open ocean,” explains Enright. “These four boys could have drowned — not one, but all four. The lifeguards are performing more and more of these types of rescues and their warnings are falling on deaf ears.”

There are signs along fences and walls that urge people to keep out, but many fail to heed the warnings.

What made this incident even more alarming is, according to a first responder, one of the boys admitted he was not a strong swimmer.

“The community needs to take responsibility or the most unfortunate of circumstances will occur,” says Enright with concern. “Parents need to speak to their children about the dangers of these areas. The lifeguards are there time and time again, but what if this had happened before or after hours?”

Some blame social media for the increased number of rescues, with many websites highlighting and even celebrating these high-risk adventures.

“We know people are trying to get that great photo or video, but is it worth their lives and risking the lives of others?”

asks Enright. “We are urging people to please stop taking these risks that can and eventually will result in the loss of life. As lifeguards, we cannot stop you, but we ask that you really think about what you are doing and how that one jump could result in serious injury or death, and your family and friends will be the ones left to deal with the unimaginable pain of losing a loved one.”

Hopefully, we can all learn this valuable lesson before it’s too late. Capturing that money photograph or video clip is not worth the risk, and never will be.

rkmizutani@gmail.com