Hawaiian Lifeguard Association

Waikiki, Hawaii | C.1990

Photo Credit: Kelli Prewett

Located in the vast Pacific Ocean, the U.S. island state of Hawaii has a special relationship with the waters that surround it. As such, the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association (HLA) was created to develop lifeguarding that’s unique to Hawaiin culture and its ocean environment

Established in 1990, the HLA is headquartered in Honolulu on the island of O’ahu and is an offshoot of the former Hawaiian Lifesaving Association, a local chapter of the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA). In Hawaii, lifeguards are trained beyond USLA certification and are highly skilled in using rescue equipment including rescue boards, tubes and fins, jet skis, ATVs and applying first aid. On guard daily, lifeguards in O’ahu monitor from 41 towers and mobile patrols throughout the island

Modern lifeguarding in O’ahu dates back to 1901, when a group of men known as the Waikiki Beachboys kept the shores of Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach safe. As tourism boomed on the island, the local Beachboys emerged as a source of surf lessons, canoe rides, and soothing music for visiting tourists. They made their living primarily by lifeguarding

Beachboy George Freeth, who was half-Hawaiian and half-Irish, is credited with reinventing lifesaving techniques and becoming the first paid, professional lifeguard. Freeth invented the first portable rescue float and pioneered using rescue boards — techniques that were a far cry from the tradition of having two tandem guards rescuing with a rope and a lifesaving reel

Since the Waikiki Beachboys and Freeth’s innovations, lifeguarding in Hawaii has evolved greatly and remains committed to ensuring the safety of those on the islands

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