KAHALUU BEACH PARK — When the Ocean Safety Division became a part of the Hawaii Fire Department in 2007, the equipment budget was $2,200.
In the past 20 years, the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation has raised $1.76 million to help Hawaii Island’s emergency responders get the equipment they need to do their job, including the Ocean Safety Division.
On Saturday morning outside the south lifeguard tower at Kahaluu Beach Park, Laura Mallery-Sayre, co-founder of the foundation, presented five custom-made rescue boards to the division.
The foundation raised money for the equipment during a live auction on Sept. 2., 2017. With the help of donors, the rescue boards were purchased at the cost of $9,717.25.
With supporters of the foundation also present during Saturday’s gifting, Mallery-Sayre said, it’s the community coming together that makes a difference.
“We’re very excited to have this quality of board to do more rescues and less recoveries,” she said. “We’re all in this together and we can’t thank the public enough.”
One of the foundation’s pushes for 2018 is to support lifeguards on a legislative level. Last year, Mallery-Sayre said, lawmakers voted to make lifeguards liable in rescues. The foundation hopes to reverse that this year.
Mallery-Sayre added they also hope to get lifeguards at Kua Bay.
Hawaii Fire Battalion Chief Gerald Kosaki said two of the boards will stay at Kahaluu and the remaining three will be sent to Hilo. He added there are more boards on order.
“This is one of the tools for a lifeguard,” Kosaki said.
Short of a Jet Ski, the battalion chief said, the rescue board is the next best thing in reaching a person in distress.
Capt. Chris Stelfox with the Ocean Safety Division said the current rescue boards in use by lifeguards are generic and made for lakes. Because of this, they damage quickly.
The hope with the new boards, Stelfox said, is that they will be more durable as they are designed for Hawaii’s conditions.
At Kahaluu, rescues are predominately done with a rescue board.
“They’ll also use the board to go out and do preventative measures and check on people,” Stelfox said of the lifeguards.
Kahaluu lifeguard Dan Ohalloran said he uses a rescue board every day, multiple times a day and he’s excited to test out the new equipment.
“It’s nice to have new gear,” he said. “It makes it easier for us to use.”
Ohalloran said the rescue board is the only way he’s saved lives.
The rescue boards are designed by a company from North Carolina called P2P. Founder Cliff Ray said what makes the boards unique is the material. A tough flexible fiber called Innegra is woven with the fiberglass that makes up the board, making it more durable and allowing for onsite repairs if it gets damaged.
Ray said his company has rescue boards on Oahu and Kauai.
The Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation was created by Mallery-Sayre and her husband, Frank Sayre, after the death of their son, Danny, in 1997.
The 25-year-old died during a hiking trip to the back of Pololu Valley near Kapaloa Falls. Fire crews spent close to 10 hours trying recover Danny, who fell 500 feet to the valley floor.