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State promotes website offering updates on beach conditions


    Griffen Mau, 18 month old, got ready for a paddleboard ride with grandfather, Paul Kim on March 14 at at Ala Moana Beach Park. The state has launched a campaign to inform travelers about a website that provides almost real time updates on surf, weather and safety conditions at beaches across Hawaii.

The state has launched a campaign to inform travelers about a website that provides almost real time updates on surf, weather and safety conditions at beaches across Hawaii.

The website,, is a partnership between the state, the counties, the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association and the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Posters offering more information about the website have been placed at baggage claims at most airports in Hawaii.

The site provides updates on wind, wave and other data and posts a hazard rating for lifeguarded beaches. It also offers information about beach closures and active alerts.

Officials hope the site will prevent drowning deaths and minimize injuries.

State statistics show that visitors are eight times more likely to drown than residents and are at greater risk of suffering injuries from ocean activities.

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  • Kudos for this service, it fills in the beaches not reported in the other wind and surf sites. Info about rip currents and dangerous shore breaks should be highlighted on the left side in a “Known Hazards” section instead of buried in the “Background” section. Other than that this service is very helpful.

  • They should put real time radiation levels too using a geiger meter. Thank you Fukushima for polluting our oceans and all those responsible for covering up this disaster. Ignorance will keep us suppressed. Thank you!! I’m amazed at all the people lined up to buy raw fish. Eat to your hearts content. I watch how people walk away with their expensive raw fish, as if there is nothing to worry about. Shame on the government not monitoring our food quality. But then again, if your still eating it, then shame on you!!

    • Reducing the number one cause of visitor drownings in Hawaii is not about surf or sharks, it’s about snorkeling. As CivilBeat reported in December, “Despite being touted as a leisure activity, snorkeling is the most common cause of injury-related death in the islands. In the last 10 years, more than half of all visitors who drowned in the Aloha State did so while snorkeling. Hanauma Bay, an iconic nature preserve, receives more than 1 million visitors annually. More tourists drown there than anywhere else in the state.”

      Many are puzzled by this fact, and struggle to find a solution. The main advice often given is that we need to hire more lifeguards and that tourists should be in better shape before they come to Hawaii and get in the water. While this is true as far as it goes, it doesn’t solve the mystery of snorkel drownings and isn’t likely to lead to effective prevention. As was noted by a local lifeguard, onlookers have trouble detecting snorkel drownings, “How do you tell whether this motionless body is a live, breathing person who is trying to see something unusual, or a ‘floater,’ somebody who has suffered a catastrophic medical event and is lifeless and pulseless?”

      In public health language, intervention by a lifeguard to save someone after a medical event has happened is called “secondary prevention”. Hiring more lifeguards could help with this. More cost effective would be a strategy to prevent the medical even from happening in the first place. This is called “primary prevention”. I believe that better understanding of the physiology of snorkel breathing can lead to a primary prevention strategy based on better education of novice snorkelers. The focus of this education needs to be on the risks of improper snorkel breathing, and on learning safe snorkel breathing. Teaching proper snorkel technique is easy to do and will save lives.

      Safe and Unsafe Snorkel Breathing

      The fact is, safe snorkel breathing is not the same as regular breathing. This is for two reasons. First, snorkel breathing uses a tube, which extends our airway “dead space” and reduces the portion of each breath available for gas exchange. Second, snorkel breathing takes place in water, which increases the risk of aspiration (inhaling water into the lungs). Each of these risks can contribute to medical distress and drowning.

      The technique used for snorkel breathing matters. Long, slow, rhythmic breaths minimize the dead space and aspiration risk, while rapid shallow breaths increase them. Rapid shallow breaths can also increase aspiration risk by making it harder to interrupt the progress of water from the snorkel, to the mouth, to the airway and to the lungs. Rapid shallow breaths may also leave a smaller residual capacity in the lungs available for a snorkel-clearing exhale.

      Most importantly, rapid shallow breathing reduces true lung ventilation (alveolar ventilation) because the increased airway dead space of the snorkel tube must be subtracted from the volume for each breath (tidal volume). It doesn’t seem like this would make a difference, but it can with rapid shallow breathing.

      The amount of ventilation where it really matters, at the alveoli where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide, is determined by this equation:

      alveolar ventilation = (tidal volume – dead space) * respiratory rate

      Using this equation to compare slow deep snorkel breaths with rapid shallow snorkel breaths, we see from the [attached] table that the difference in ventilation is significant, even when the total amount of air being “breathed” is the same (12 L/min). Compared to resting ventilation (4.2 L/min), slow deep snorkel breathing doubles alveolar ventilation (8.4 L/min) whereas rapid shallow snorkel breathing barely increases it at all (4.8 L/min).

      This means that how we breathe will determine if a snorkel experience will be safe and enjoyable, or if it will involve fatigue, panic, cardiac ischemia, loss of consciousness or death. Once the impact of increased airway dead space is appreciated, the fact that snorkeling is the top activity linked with visitor drownings, even in shallow-water, makes more sense.

      Having provided background on the physiology of proper and improper snorkel breathing, it is hoped this information can be translated into public education. It is notable that the state and counties have identified public education as one of the main solutions to reducing drownings, yet the educational content does not include SSSB. We can help fix this by ensuring that:

      1) Water safety and Snorkel vendors learn that Slow Safe Snorkel Breathing (SSSB) makes snorkeling a safer and more enjoyable experience for all involved.
      2) Simple informative SSSB posters, signs and handouts are made available to those who rent or purchase snorkel gear. This is inexpensive and can prevent snorkel drowning.
      3) Hanauma Bay’s required visitor education experience includes the basics of SSSB.
      4) Snorkel instructors include SSSB in their teaching (see handout).

      To accomplish these goals, we will need help from state and city agencies, snorkel rental and sales people, snorkel tour staff, the visitor and tourism industry at large, and the general public. Let’s all learn about Slow, Safe Snorkel Breathing, pass it on, and start saving lives!

      Virginia Pressler and other officials are really committed to preventing tourist drownings, they should consider incorporating advice about snorkel safety into the new water safety website

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