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Focus on surf shifts to Oahu's south shore

By Brenton Awa
Published On: May 01 2013 11:04:27 PM HST

Oahu's coastal danger zone is moving to the south side of the island.

HONOLULU -

The shift is on.  Oahu's coastal danger zone is moving to the southern side of our islands.

This is the season for things to get riskier along some of the island's most popular beaches and the change has emergency leaders sounding the alarm.

With summer, comes the sun, surf, and an increase in ocean safety concerns along Hawaii's south facing shores.

The swells aren't big yet, but Ocean Safety officials are already gearing up for the shift in work from the North Shore to town.  That means relocating personnel and rescue skis to better serve beach goers.

"We can get out there and help you, even when the surf is big," said Jim Howe, Ocean Safety Chief of Operations.

Lifeguards say their ready, but are beach goers?  Officials tell us they made 50,000 assists last summer.  Around 150 were major rescues.

This year their message is focused to surfers, kayakers, and stand-up paddle-boarders who go offshore.

"A lot of off shore wind that gets channeled through the valleys, so you may be paddling in one spot that's maybe 10-15 mph but you get in front of the right valley and it jumps up to 30 mph," said Mike Cantin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman.

And if you fall off your board a gusty trade wind could blow it out to sea.

"When a stand up paddler or a one man gets out there, it's not usually for an hour or so that someone realizes they haven't come into the beach," said Paul Merino, Ocean Safety South Shore Captain.

"And by that time," asked the reporter.  "It could be fatal," said Merino.

Two months ago, lifeguards tell us they rescued a man who had lost his one man canoe offshore.  One thing saved him.

"Our jet ski found him in about four minutes, had he not had his cell phone on it could have been a lot worse," said Merino.

"Even if you're experienced, you may run into someone who didn't and you might save their life by making that 911 call right away," said Howe.

But the use of cell phones isn't the only tip ocean safety has for us. Lifeguards say much of their work comes from surfers getting injured on overcrowded waves. They urge the public to be more aware.

"Share and when you can help out, and when in doubt don't go out," said Merino.

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