Waikoloa Canoe Club: Safety is a choice

  • Waikoloa Canoe Club paddlers Mike ChinQuee and Ted Cassinelli assisted in towing in a woman bitten by a shark Tuesday morning at Anaehoomalu Bay. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

It is sometimes said that safety is a choice you make.

Waikoloa Canoe Club takes the saying to heart by carrying among its paddling crews cellphones and watches with GPS, tow and rescue equipment, personal flotation devices and learning the always evolving best practices for paddler safety.

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These safety practices include having respect for what can be an unpredictable ocean environment. Club members have participated in huli (overturned canoe) drills, water safety talks and sponsored disaster preparedness, inviting speakers from Civil Defense, the Red Cross and first responder fields. One example of how preparation gave rise to a good result occurred on April 23.

It was a beautiful morning for a Waikoloa Canoe Club Ohana paddle as half a dozen six-man outrigger canoes left the Beach at Anaehoomalu Bay, heading north. Julie Barreto, steering the lead canoe, saw some figures at a distance as the canoe was rounding up to the rocky point, which can be a popular surfing spot. She noted the water was flat and observed what appeared to be a standup paddler accompanying a kayak or canoe.

The stand up paddler signaled his distress and Barreto steered the six-man outrigger to him where the Waikoloa Canoe Club paddlers discovered a female lying prone on a kayak, calling for help. She had an obvious wound to her inner leg. Her husband on the stand up paddleboard reported a shark had bitten his wife.

Fortuitously paddling in seat one of the outrigger canoe was Jim Budde, a retired emergency room physician, who was able to immediately assess the wound. (Waikoloa Canoe Club is fortunate to have at least five physician members along with other club members who have training as first responders.) Paddlers Adele Salzman in seat 2 of Barreto’s Outrigger Canoe and Bob Waliszewski in seat 4 were able to quickly secure the kayak with the injured kayaker to the ama side of the outrigger canoe. The rescue crew also included Dennis Parsons and together all paddled the canoe back to the beach along with the kayak and its wounded passenger.

Mike ChinQuee, steering the outrigger canoe just behind Julie Barreto, called 911. As they paddled back to shore, the outrigger paddlers assured their wounded guest that her husband, who was following behind, was safe. Another Waikoloa Canoe crew member monitored his safety.

After the injured kayaker was brought to the beach emergency medical responders arrived. Paddlers assisted the paramedics in getting the kayaker to the ambulance and then volunteered their help to her husband in stowing gear, board and kayak so that he could accompany his wife to the hospital.

In the meantime, Waikoloa Canoe Club paddlers organized by Ted Cassinelli provided, when requested, the escort of swimmers, kayakers and other recreational users of the bay back to the beach.

Waikoloa Canoe Club President John Ciambrone was deservedly proud of the Canoe Club members’ measured and calm response to an emergency situation, concluding “safety is our first priority both for our paddlers and for visitors to Anaehoomalu Bay. I am glad we were there to help.”

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The Canoe Club has reason to celebrate what went right, a positive result based on preparation, as does the injured kayaker, who is making what looks to be a good recovery. The Club understands she is looking forward to her speedy return to paddling in the bay she loves.

Lillian Lim is a member of the Waikoloa Canoe Club.

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