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Meet Ka’aumoana Davis from Oahu, Hawaii. A North Shore Lifeguard, Product Tester and Father of Two.

Can you please tell me about your name?

The “Ka’aumoana” was a position or job in the village. This person would dive to collect fresh water from the springs as well as provide fish for the village.

My parents chose this name to represent the family history, their ancestry runs back to Native Hawaiian fishing villages. Over the years, I developed nicknames, as friends got lazy and struggled to pronounce my real name. People thought it was Kamuana, so they shortened it to Kamu, and it stuck. Although I rarely go by my full name these days, but want to share that part of my family’s history with my son, Malachi Caine Ka’aumoana.

Who has been influential and inspired you?

One of my biggest influences in life is my grandpa Noah. He was a respected Hawaiian waterman before there were lifeguards. Him and his friends who were avid fishermen, divers, and surfers, were often looked upon as “Guardians of the Sea”. Growing up I remember spending time alongside them, learning how the ocean moves, the tide changes, and how quickly things can go wrong.

As I got older I traveled to different countries and had various jobs, but always found my way back to the ocean.

Today, you can find me in the tower, on the boat, or spending time with my family.

woman on surfboard
On shoulders looking through binoculars
KA’AUMOANA DAVIS headshot

Can you tell us about your Lifeguarding career in Hawaii?

Unlike most other places in the world, Lifeguards in Hawaii are in the towers year round. In the summer months, they watch over the high number of tourists visiting the islands. The winter is a different story. Oahu’s North Shore is known for it’s big waves and hosts multiple surf competitions. For this reason, only the elite are given the opportunity to work in District 3 which stretches from Kaena Point to Kualoa.

I have been a Honolulu City & County Lifeguard since 2005. Lifeguarding was one of those things, that I had always wanted to do. But it wasn’t that easy. It wasn’t something you just got because you wanted it. An opportunity needed to present itself, and when it did, you needed to capitalize on it.

Being in the ocean is a humbling experience, it does not discriminate. As a lifeguard we always have to be ready. There is no room for mistakes we always need to be scanning, watching and ready to go at any time.

Wow. What was the training like and how did you qualify to do this?

Each year, all lifeguards are required to complete an Agility Test, regardless of their years of service, or which beach they work on. This ensures that the best of the best are the ones on duty when they’re needed. These men and women have developed their skills, and continue to maintain them by constantly training their minds and their bodies.

Unfortunately I failed the Agility Test on my first try. So I came back with a vengeance, and prevailed.

The Agility Test:

  • Run. Swim. (1000m run, 1000m swim) in 25 minutes or less
  • 400m Paddle Board Sprint (100m laps) in 4 minutes or less
  • Run. Swim. Run (100m run, 100m swim, 100m run) in 3 minutes or less

To be worthy of the title of waterman means more than understanding tides and knowing surf spots.

scuba diving to train for lifeguarding

So, what is it like being a lifeguard in some of the world’s most dangerous and crowded surf breaks?

We’re always putting ourselves in situations where conditions are extreme or unsafe, as lifeguards we have to trust our instincts, knowledge of the ocean, the current, the beach, and our physical capabilities, all while attempting to save someone’s life — more often than not, a complete stranger. We are all first responders. First on the scene of events they’ve spent the entire day attempting to prevent.

Waikiki is what most people associate Hawaii with. Calm waters, white sand, and Diamond Head in the distance. Most lifeguards start their careers in Waikiki or District 1. The waves might not be that big most days, but there are a lot of people to watch.

I spent my first 4 years of my career working in town. I drove every day from the North Shore, but always preferred living in the country. Naturally, I planned on making my way up there from the get go. In those days, things were different. It didn’t matter how much you wanted it, if there wasn’t a Senior Guard to vouch for you, you weren’t getting in.

In October 2009 I got the call up to District 3, the first few years it was just for the winter months — when the surf was the biggest. But eventually, it became permanent.

I love to share my knowledge of water safety and love for the ocean with the youth of the community through the Junior Lifeguard Program every summer. The North Shore Lifeguard Association, hosts community events throughout the year promoting ocean safety, as well as CPR clinics.

lifeguard on tower
group of lifeguards

So, what is it like being a lifeguard in some of the world’s most dangerous and crowded surf breaks?

—Fins, Tube, Binoculars—
That goes for all lifeguards around the world, not just us. Each lifeguard tower has a set of binoculars however each lifeguard has their own pair too. Body surfing Fins and Binoculars are key to success for a lifeguard.

If you are a carpenter you should never go to work without a hammer or a screwdriver, for a lifeguard it is a good pair of body surfing fins as well as binoculars.

Lifestyle shots at the beach and with his son

Binoculars are very important in a life saving situation because when you see a person in distress their facial expression is a tell tale sign of if they are in trouble or not. This is a first indicator in the process of making a save in the ocean.

What are you up to these days?

These days I am a proud father of two beautiful children that I share with my partner, Naz. My son Malachi (3) had been visiting me at work since he was a baby. Malachi’s first dip at Pipeline was at a mere 3 months old! Needless to say he shares in his father’s love for the ocean. At three years old, Malachi is learning how to use a rescue tube, hold his breath, and read the waves.

Our daughter Zenaida was born on July 9, 2020 and already loves the ocean, and has her dad wrapped tightly around her finger.

My family is my priority, support system, and escape from the stress that is the job. Lifeguards witness some crazy $h!t. Then they have to go home, be parents and partners. And then they have to wake up and do it again the next day, where something even more gnarly could happen.

Be safe, know your limits and always swim near a lifeguard.

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