The ocean can be a relentless place, with very little regards to what gets in its way, and sadly, Hawaii knows all too well the power of her wrath; a power so h3 that it has managed to take the lives of not only visitors but experienced watermen (and women) as well.

After the death of professional surfer Sion Milosky in 2011 and then Kirk Passmore in 2013, the big-wave surfing community knew they had to do something to minimize risks. They meet annually to discuss the latest technological advancements for big-wave riding, like inflatable vests charged with CO2 canisters. They even cover the very basics of lifesaving skills, such as CPR.

And while it’s highly unlikely tourists will be out there in the giant surf, there are still a few things we can take away from those meetings that will benefit anyone who goes to the beach – such as, knowing before you go. Be savvy and check with your hotel concierge even before heading out for the day. They will have a better idea of the local weather and surf forecasts and also the best beaches to go. Otherwise, check with lifeguards on duty.

Big-wave surfers know that it is a BIG NO-NO to surf alone. Apply this to the rest of the ocean community, and we learn that it is always best to have a buddy system when we go in or near the ocean. If you’re with an experienced tour guide, then all the better.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the ocean is full of surprises, so to be on guard as best you can. Even if the waves look small at one beach, for instance, there could be a dangerous rip current that may take you out to sea. This is not to make scare you but more to prepare you for your trip to the beach.

Photo Courtesy: Mike Sakaba

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