Recently, a high surf advisory has been issued on the islands, along with storms and snow on Mauna Kea. As a result, the sea got hectic, and the waves got more prominent, resulting in a very chaotic scenario for swimming. Nevertheless, some 300 beach goers went to the sea anyway and got swept away by the waves. Luckily, lifeguards successfully used jet skis to rescue them and there were no serious injuries nor deaths.
The incident was caused by a rip current that swelled the surfers to open sea as the current’s force can be intense to the point where swimming back to the shore can become impossible, even for experienced swimmers. Moreover, some surfers were lost and their boards were broken.
Ripcurrents are narrow and strong currents of water that flow from the shore into the sea, cutting through bigger than usual waves, like a river running directly to the ocean. They can be terrifying for those unfamiliar and non-experienced swimmers because, contrary to popular belief, these currents don’t push people underwater. Instead, they take you away from the coast and dissipate beyond the zone of breaking waves, simply releasing whatever it has carried away.
Huge waves are already a phenomenon that Hawaii is already famous for (being a surf hub known worldwide). So these bigger-than-usual waves that occur alongside the rip current can be an attraction for many people. And that’s what happened in this situation.
Hanging out at the beach sure sounds like a very relaxing activity on your vacations or after a long working summer day. In warm places, swimming by the sea can offer a respite from the scorching heat that takes over throughout the year. Hawaii, a group of tropical islands in the middle of the pacific ocean is no exception. But if swimmers are not careful, the sea may become a danger in the blink of the eye.
Waikiki is a neighborhood located on a narrow strip of land in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital. It is by far the most famous location and the most visited beach on all the islands. Waikiki alone generates over 2 billion dollars, representing over 42% of tourism revenue, in only 1,5 square miles. Luxury hotels and resorts, numerous shopping malls, and the funkiest restaurants are some of the attractions you may encounter in this exceptional place. However, it’s packed with tourists, as the beach receives an average of 71,000 beachgoers every day.
Over-tourism is a worry raving Hawaii. Oahu, the most visited island, is already facing this problem, and Honolulu City Council recently passed a bill to increase the minimum stay from 30 to 90 days. Maui, the second most visited island, is facing the same issue, as locals and lawmakers are trying to limit the number of visitors. Hawaii has many wonders. Surfing and big waves are one of them that seems to be inviting and adventurous. Waikiki has calm waves and is considered one of the best places on the islands for beginner surfers.
Mass tourism is not the only thing that can disrupt some learners though. Rip currents can become very strong, and swimming against them and panic attacks are the leading cause of drowning. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of the weather and sea advisory before entering the sea and always swim close to a lifeguard. If caught in a rip current, try not to panic, and if possible, try to swim paralleling the shore or just let the current dissipate and swim back to the beach.
If you see someone in need of assistance, do not try to rescue them yourself, but call 911 and explain the situation. In the end, the best tool is prevention, always keep yourself up-to-date to weather advisories and don’t take chances with the ocean.
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