Ralph Goto

As administrator of the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division, Department of Emergency Services, City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii, Ralph Goto has been nothing but busy.

And don’t let the long title fool you. In short, Goto has dedicated his career to spreading the message to providing more and better-trained lifeguards around the state.


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Photos from Ralph Goto

He is responsible for “the overall operation and administration of the year-round, professional ocean lifeguard service on the Hawaiian island of Oahu,” according to the International Life Saving Federation.

“We’ve worked for the past 20 years as a more-professional, more-reliable, more-credible service,” says Goto, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Sept. 8, 1993. “We’re recognized as one of the best lifeguard operations in the country.

“Another claim to fame was that our division and its employees developed a set of Jet Skis to help in rescue situations, and that’s been emulated around the world. Most lifeguard agencies now use Jet Skis, and that’s due to the work of some of the guys here who started in the big surf.”

In his position, Goto has been able to travel extensively – Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, France and Brazil – for training.

“This job has allowed me to meet people and look at lifesaving, lifeguarding from a more global perspective,” he explains. “And I think it’s helped develop what we’ve developed here (in Hawaii).”

This legislative session, Goto notes that the passing of SB 883 greatly helped the cause.

“It created a new collective bargaining unit for lifeguards and state law-enforcement people,” he explains. “It’s a start at recognizing that we’re all public safety people.”

He continues to note that prevention is key.

“Our position is that we need more lifeguards,” he says. “Prevention efforts are great and they’re important, and I think (in every county) lifeguards are the front line. We need to collectively look at how we can provide more. That’s my mission.”

Goto has seen a lot of changes in the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division during his 32 years with the organization, and at the end of the year will retire.

“I have some hobbies, like woodworking,” he says. “My wife (Roberta) is going to retire at the same time, so we’re going to enjoy retirement together and enjoy some traveling.

“It’s been a great career, and I’ve had the privilege with working with some really great people.”