Swept off rocks drownings Hawaii

Apr 2nd, 2004, 06:21 PM
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My family of four is very excited to be heading to Maui in two weeks. Our two teenager girls are with us and I feel that reading this post was meant to be for me and my family. Both girls are very good swimmers but my husband and I plan to play golf a couple days and probably leave the two of them at the beach and/or pool by themselves. Now that I have read this post I will be sure to tell them about what I read here so that they will understand the power of the ocean. Even though we will be in Kaanapali I know the waves can be rough and undertows can happen. Thank you all so much for the words of warning that could save lives!!
pks2000 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 06:31 PM
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On a slightly lighter (but related) note - my sister and her best friend were in Maui a couple of years back and were swimming on a relatively "crowded" beach (not sure which one) when a large wave knocked them off their feet. My sister's friend had the top of her bikini pulled down by the force of the water. To make matter worse, as she water rushed back out it pulled the bottom of her suit down around her ankles. She said she didn't know what to cover up first. They both laugh about it now though at the time it was obviously mortifying.

LordBalfor is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 06:50 PM
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An excellent and under-discussed topic.

Three years ago I almost drowned at Hapuna Beach on the BI. During the late fall/winter months it's not uncommon to get 5, 10 or even 15 minutes of small 2-3 foot waves, and then a set of MUCH larger waves.. And the bottom slope at Hapuna is so gentle that one can get lulled out very far and the water will still only be up to your neck. So there I was one afternoon, way the heck out there, bobbing up and down on the bottom, when all of a sudden there *was* no bottom. The sight of that shelf edge dropping off into nothingness is still something I have nightmares about. So I started to panic, went under a few times, when out the blue this huge wave comes up behind me and pushes me toward the beach at least 20 feet, where I was able to touch bottom again. A lifeguard later told me that more people drown at Hapuna Beach than at all other BI beaches combined.

Be careful out there!!
fdecarlo is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 09:38 PM
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Kudos to DB and Kal for their thoughts on Napali Coast.....

love that trail and love that beach....missed Hanakapi'ai so much this trip as well as all my fave beaches in Kauia...The pacific claimed the surf and beaches to be impassable..I usally swim with little fear and use great caution....as I recognized this past winter, stand down to the surf and respect it. Just thinking about venturing to Queen's bath during high surf, or Olivine Pools , or any of these magical places, scares the hell out of me.....caution and respect....

DB, I always had the attitude that if Hanakapi'ai didn't like me it would spit me back 9 mile away....never considered missing that ride inland....a most sombering thought,,,,thank you DB

Take care people!!!!

Apr 3rd, 2004, 05:54 AM
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Reading these posts made me remember a family trip to Atlantic City way back in 1962 when I was about 12. (It was a beach resort town in those days.) My parents blithely let us play in the ocean, oblivious of the danger. I had waded out in knee deep water and turned my back to a huge wave coming in.

I'll never forget how scared I was as it tumbled me over and over. Thank God it spit me out at the shore. Maybe that is why I am to this day very nervous and cautious in the ocean.
Maggi is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 06:28 AM
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fdecarlo is right about the ocean here in Hawaii being calm and inviting one minute and waves crashing onto the shoreline or rocks the next minute. Looks can be very deceiving. The majority of the drownings in Hawaii are visitors who do not heed signs posted at the beach or warnings from residents.

For those of you coming to Hawaii for a visit, ask about the safety of specific beaches that you intend to visit. Life guards and most residents would be good sources of information. Some beaches are more suited for swimming and others are, IMO, just for photo ops.
hawaiimom is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 07:41 AM
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This particular beach still has multiple warning signs posted -- English text, with the appropriate international figures for each warning.

This family passed by these signs on their way to the shoreline, and either failed to read them, or chose to ignore them.

Tragic...and our entire island mourns this needless loss.
auntiemaria is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 09:33 AM
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...And be careful about body surfing. I lived on Oahu years ago, but recall the numerous times I heard about someone (usually a young man new to island surf) breaking his neck while body surfing at Sandy Beach, Makapuu, etc.
M_Martin is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 09:37 AM
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I was a Red Cross certified swim instructor, lifeguarded all through college and could swim miles if necessary. The only time in my life I've ever been afraid of waves was in Maui--I'd never seen anything like that and would just as soon not again...unless it's from a distance! I recall looking up, seeing one towering over me, and knowing my only escape was to get down and swim under it...to not let it break on me!! My DH was tumbled around head-over heels, surfacing with a nose devoid of it's top layer of skin--lovely for our black tie function that night!

Our son and daughter-in-law went to Maui last year on their honeymoon. They have a photo of her just as she surfaced from snorkeling after a wave such as the one we saw. Her mask was gone as was the snorkel tube--she came up with just the mouthpiece left in her mouth!!

The average person, no matter how familiar with water stateside, will be unaware of the potential danger in HI...but whose responsibility is it to educate us? And whose is it to warn those on the FL panhandle for instance, of the dangerous riptides? Is it really tourism's responsibility as someone suggested? If posting warnings on the site does no good, if warning flags during riptides don't work (and they don't), what on earth could tourism do to effect a change? Do you think HI drawing up some sort of informational literature to be posted in hotel rooms would be effective? I would think hotels would be agreeable to having such literature, but would people pay that any more mind than they pay other warnings already on site? I can't tell you the number of times I've seen adults diving into one of our pools here, one that is too shallow for diving and has signs both on posts and on the deck clearly stating, "No Diving"...but the warnings are for anyone but them it seems. So...what is the answer??
Apr 3rd, 2004, 10:26 AM
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Hi OO -- I wasn't suggesting that the tourist industry should be responsible for educating people about the dangers. Rather, I was making the point that that would be an unlikely scenario since it is contrary to their financial interests. But educational campaigns can make a difference.

I agree that signs are posted, etc, but obviously something more is required. I don't have the solution...
Marilyn is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 11:29 AM
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Hi Marilyn. Actually (I had to look back) it was gyppielou's 1st post: "It would be nice to make the tourist industry teach its clients to respect the power of the mighty pacific" that I was referring to.

I asked "my source" what he thought of informational literature in hotel rooms and he felt it would be accepted if designed by the state as general warnings of potential dangers on the islands which we mainlanders may be unaware of. Perhaps too, as someone else suggested, it could be literature passed out with the ag forms. It may save a few lives, but certainly there are too many for whom only seeing is believing, and who are going to dive into the shallow pool come hell or high water so to speak, no matter how many warnings are posted. If the people in this case actually walked past multiple signs pointing specifically to this danger, as auntiemaria said, I can't imagine what the solution is either....
Apr 3rd, 2004, 11:47 AM
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OO, I guess that should be "hell or low water" in this case.
Marilyn is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 02:31 PM
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Whoever said that there were more drowinings in Hawaii than all other states combined was way off base. In 2000 alone there were 3482 drownings in the U.S. From 1993 to 1997 there were only 306 drowings in Hawaii.

Rusty is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 02:48 PM
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Though all these drownings are very sad, I still don't understand why people act as though it's a surprise that the ocean can be dangerous. I will be sounding extremely brutal, but have all of these people been living in a hole somewhere? It's sheer common sense that a blowhole is dangerous, that large waves are dangerous, bottom line that an ocean is dangerous. Just because I haven't lived near constant flames, does that mean that I'm surprised that fires are dangerous?? It's plain common sense, sadly, something that is lacking in many people.
lyb is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 03:15 PM
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Then I read in the paper that this family has already lost a three year old son in a horse trample and an unborn child when a horse kicked the mom's stomach!! What kind of parents are these?

Heard some spring break sad stories on Oahu too.
islandmom is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 03:21 PM
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Are you joking? If it's true, well.....
lyb is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 05:06 PM
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From the stae of Hawai`i Dept of Health:

"Current status and trends in Hawai`i
Drownings are the second leading cause of unintentional injury death. Each year in Hawai`i, there are nearly 50 drownings and over 100 water-related hospitalizations occurring mainly from activities in the ocean and pools. Hawai`i has more ocean-related drownings and injuries leading to death and disability per square mile than any other state. Nearly half of all ocean-related drownings and hospitalized injuries occur to non-residents, therefore de facto population estimates yield a more accurate injury rate."
here_today_gone2Maui is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 07:08 PM
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Couple was from rural Edwardsville, IL.


A rural Edwardsville neighbor said the couple were "very active and fun and always on the go, very outgoing" They "were very protection of their son, Daniel"

My prayers go out to this little boy and other family members.

SandyBrit is offline  
Apr 4th, 2004, 02:30 PM
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I've always been something of a fish, even as a child (although now-a-days I'm more like a sea lion). So I do have a couple of anecdotes to share.

When I was 5-6 years old, we visited SoCal and went to the beach (probably San Diego) and I was playing in about 2-1/2 feet of water when I was knocked over by a wave. I started to get up and was hit by another wave, and this continued repeatedly. I even tried to wait underwater until the next wave passed over, but as soon as I got up I was hit and knocked over again. I was also trying very hard to use my feet to push into shallower water, but I just kept getting knocked over, tumbled around, and pulled-back a little. Believe me, this happened at least ten times in a row and I was getting worn out ...I was wondering why nobody was helping me, and would have cried had the situation allowed for it. I was very close to just giving up completely when my father grabbed me, picked me up and took me to shore. He was fully clothed, and it ruined his new shoes. My mother thereafter always told the story of the time my dad had to run into the ocean to get me, and ruined his new shoes. They never really understood how much trouble I was in and just how close it was (they were busy talking and thought I had only gotten knocked over a couple times, by the time my dad ran in to get me).

Another time when we lived in the area and I was probably 10-11 years old, my mother and a friends mother drove a few of us to Huntington Beach for the day. We immediately got in the water, and discovered there was a sand bar. We probably walked a 1/4 mile out to sea, with the water only up to our chests, before we noticed some "ants" on the shore trying to get our attention to come back. We walked back, and were scolded for going out so far. We were told that at any second we could have reached the end of the sand bar and drowned. I tend to chuckle when I think of it, because we were scolded as though we would have stepped of the shelf and sunk like a rock into 500 feet of water, rather than lose footing and just swim back onto the sand bar.

When it comes to many mainland beaches, they are long enough that rip currents usually aren't much of an issue for anyone who is body or board surfing and is a decent swimmer, you just get pulled a 1/2 mile or so down the beach and then have to swim in (using the waves to propel you) and then walk all the back to where you started. But around Hawaii, this isn't much of an option, and never plan on it being so simple. Even the sandy beaches can hide large rocks that a wave can push you down into -- or you may miss the beach completely and either be in a rock coral zoo, or up against cliffs. Reef protected areas or coves are the best. But still -- don't depend on the experience of loonnnnng stretches of sandy beaches on the mainland coasts with that of lava rock and coral, you'll be screwed (I hate scraping up against that stuff even while quietly snorkeling, those little "underwater cactus" embedded in the rock always leave sore spots).

On mainland beaches in the summer, it is possible to "ride" undertows if you are experienced with ocean swimming. You just dive low into a wave as it is receding and get a 5-10 knot pull like a dolphin swimming underwater. Because of the long gentle slope in the summer, it is relatively easily to "kick-out" and get to the surface, the undertow does not have the energy to hold you deep. Mainland beaches in the winter will have a much steeper slope, possibly a shelf, and the undertow is more vicious and dangerous. Hawaii is not even a consideration for doing this on purpose, for most beach shelves are narrow and then drop-off quickly and deeply. If you get caught in an undertow, it can take you past the shelf and quite deep, you'll probably drown and they'll find you somewhere out at sea later in the day.

The best piece of advice for ocean situations is to not panic, and keep thinking about how to help yourself (for instance, use the waves to actually bring you into shore instead of trying to fight them). Should you find yourself being held underwater, keep thinking and keep your mouth closed -- don't breath in for anything -- even if it feels you're going to explode or pass out, a few more seconds can make all the difference in the world (I know how difficult it is, but it can really help not to have your lungs full of water if rescued). Whenever you reach the surface breath out first, then quickly in.
DB is offline  
Apr 4th, 2004, 05:00 PM
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DB you're scaring the **** out of me. I don't know if I'll ever go in the ocean again!
Maggi is offline  

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