As a teenager, I hung out at Nānākuli Beach Park often. There, I’d see the lifeguards come and go on their work day. That’s when I knew I wanted to become a lifeguard. Because when I see the ocean, I see God’s creation. And I truly love playing in God’s creation. It’s where I feel at home, happy, and at peace.
When I show up to work at my tower at Pōka‘i Bay, it’s always a beautiful place to be: I see the surf at nearby surf spot Rest Camp, the boats at Wai‘anae Boat Harbor, Lahilahi Mountain, and Kū‘ilioloa heiau. On rainy days there are rainbows.
For me, because I love caring for and helping people, the best thing about lifeguarding is water patrol. That’s where we paddle or swim out into the surf and make sure everyone is OK. One rescue that made me proud happened on a sunny day in Mā‘ili Beach Park. Four kids got swept into the current and out to sea. Before they got too far, I swam out, had them hold on to the rescue tube, then swam all of them in. It made me feel good to know I rescued four kids all at one time.
Another day, while working at a surf break called Tumbleland, a wild pig ran across the street, through the park, past our tower, and straight into the surf break. The waves were 1- to 3-feet. The pig was swept into the current, down the shoreline, and out to sea. The beachgoers stared while my partner and I jumped up and ran for the pig. My partner swam out and somehow managed to grab the rope that was tied around the pig’s leg and brought it to safety.
Back on the beach, the pig was a little aggressive, so we decided to report it in to our headquarters to have the proper authorities pick it up. While doing so, we heard a lot of laughing and confusion in the background: “You folks rescued a pig?” repeated again and again. We also laughed because we did not know what to do. It was a very funny situation. Eventually, one of our coworkers came over after work and picked up the pig. We talked and laughed about that story for months afterwards.
Working on the west side of the island is great. I get to help tourists and locals. And most times, my friends and family will meet me out in the surf while I’m on water patrol. Or they’ll stop by my tower just to say hi. I never feel far away from them. The West Side is the best side. I’m at home working here.
Kawehi Namu‘o is a lifeguard with O‘ahu’s City and County of Honolulu’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division. Raised in Nānākuli, she’s a lifelong waterwoman.