Water Safety

Water Safety


I have thirty years of water safety experience in twenty-five countries, including five years service as a Hawaii County Water Safety Officer, and seasonal service as a California State Park Lifeguard.

Other areas of experience include ten years service as an American Red Cross Water Safety, First-aid, and CPR Instructor and five years owner and operator of an international surfing school in Kailua-Kona Hawaii.

I have also been a surfing contest competitor and official in Hawaii, North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.

To date I have made and over one-hundred surf-related ocean rescues.

Please visit my Surf Tourism Research, Surfing Experience, and Surfing Scrapbook pages.

Rip Currents Poster [click image to enlarge]

Water Safety and Lifeguarding Experience

1991-2017 Lifeguards Hawaii State

  • Water Safety Consultant

1998-2003 Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors (HLSI)

  • Surfing and Ocean Safety Instructor

1987-1997 American Red Cross, Hawaii Island Chapter

  • Instructor in Lifeguarding, Swimming, First Aid and CPR
  • Water Safety Instructor (WSI)

1991-1992 California State Park Lifeguard

  • State Lifeguard – California Department of Parks and Recreation

1985-1991 County of Hawaii

  • Water Safety Officer (WSO II)

1992-1993 Boy Scouts of America

  • Boy Scout Merit Badge Instructor in First Aid and CPR

1988-1990 Ocean Sports Waikoloa

  • First Aid and CPR Instructor

1987-1997 Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Instructor

  • Swimming, Water Safety and Lifeguard Instructor
  • First Aid and CPR Instructor

1988-1992 Parker High School, Hawaii

  • Swimming Coach, Water Safety and Lifeguard Instructor
  • First Aid and CPR Instructor

Lifeguarding at Kahaluu and White Sands (Magic Sands) Beach Parks in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – 1985-1991

The 1980s in Hawaii was an early period in the development of public water safety services. Many popular beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii did not have lifeguard stations or towers, such as White Sands (Magic Sands) Beach in Kailua-Kona. The traditional Hawaiian name for the site is La'a Loa.

The photos shared here are from my Surfing Scrapbook.

Lifeguarding White Sands Beach (La'a Loa) Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – 1989

Lifeguarding White Sands Beach (La'a Loa) Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – 1990

White Sands Point (La'a Loa), Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – 2000 [click on photo to read "A Brief History of Surfing"]

Kahaluu Beach Park – County of Hawaii

Kuemanu Heiau (surfing shrine) at Kahaluu Beach Park, Big Island of Hawaii [click photo to enlarge]

Students learning to surf at the Kuemanu Heiau surfing shrine at Kahaluu Beach Park

Lifeguarding at Hapuna Beach State Park in South Kohala, Hawaii, with Lifeguards Hawaii State

Hapuna State Beach has a long history of drowning and near-drowning incidents. During the 1970s and 80s, while Hawaii County provided lifeguard services at County beach parks, State beach parks were left unguarded.

Hapuna State Beach was particularly dangerous due to the deep water and north-west exposure, making the beach wide open to large and powerful north-west ocean swells during the winter months.

In 1990, the State opened a contract for private lifeguarding organizations to provide water safety services at Hapuna for the first time. Honolulu-based Lifeguards Hawaii State, owned and operated by John Quincy Adams (aka, JQA), took charge of the lifeguard program for first three years.

Hawaii County Lifeguard tower at Hapuna Beach State Park

Hawaii County lifeguard tower at Hapuna Beach State Park

Following the precedence set in January 1992, when the City and County of Honolulu was elected to place lifeguards at the notoriously dangerous Keawaula Beach on Oahu, and agreement was soon reached on the Big Island between Hawaii County and the State of Hawaii, leading to County lifeguards being stationed at Hapuna State Beach.

I was fortunate to be active during this formative period in the Big Island's water safety programing, having worked for the County, as well as Lifeguards Hawaii State.

Winter 1992 – Lifeguarding at Hapuna Beach State Park with Lifeguards Hawaii State

The first lifeguard tower at Hapuna Beach State Park in South Kohala, Hawaii. Set up by Lifeguards Hawaii State

California State Park Lifeguarding in San Clemente, Orange Coast State District

Just prior to County guards being officially stationed at Hapuna, I was accepted to the California State Park Lifeguard Training Program at Huntington Beach. Luckily, I survived the rigorous training and testing period at Huntington and got hired as a California State Park Lifeguard in San Clemente, Orange Coast District – a great place to be a surfer-lifeguard!

San Clemente was home to the surf beaks know collectively as "Trestles" at San Onofre State Beach, and being from out of state, I was allowed to camp and use the facilities at Trestles Headquarters (THQ) overlooking the breaks during the summer of 1992. 

The surf breaks known collectively as "Trestles" at San Onofre State Beach [click photo to enlarge]

Surfing and Ocean Safety in Phuket, Thailand

After moving to the resort island of Phuket, Thailand, in 2007 for my MBA in Hospitality and Tourism Management, I became interested in ocean safety at local beaches.

During my first week on the island, I made several surf-related rescues at unguarded beaches. That year, during the Southwest Monsoon (May to October), I rescued five tourists in the surf, and decided to conduct water safety research on the island. My study found that surfers were unintentionally acting as surrogate lifeguards at Phuket beaches, assisting tourists and the general public who got into trouble in the surf.

I wrote several articles for a local magazine on related subjects, created the Phuket Ocean Safety Guide, and in April of 2010, the research made the front page of the Phuket Gazette. I also discussed this issue in my Master's thesis, "Coastal resource assessment for surf tourism in Thailand," and on local radio.

Discussing surf and ocean safety on the air in Phuket, Thailand [click photo to view my Master's thesis]

Phuket Ocean Safety Guide [click image to view]

Coastal Currents in Phuket [click image to view]

Surfer Lifesavers of Phuket [click image to view]

Surf's Up, Drownings Down [click image to view]

Letters of Recommendation

Boy Scouts of America – Hawaii Aloha Council

American Red Cross – Appreciation Awards

State of California – Department of Parks and Recreation Recommendation

Lifeguards Hawaii State – Chief of Operations Letter of Recognition

Thank you for visiting my Water Safety and Lifeguarding page,

Steven A. Martin