One of the biggest surfing personalities in Hawai‘i, the lineup, and the world is Kainoa McGee. Kainoa was well known as a premiere Hawaiian waterman early on. Winning his first bodyboard contest at age 10, becoming a sponsored professional at age 12 and winning the Bodyboard world championships by 18, Kainoa went on to succeed in bodyboarding, surfing, stand up surfing and the occasional Hollywood acting role.
Becoming a City & County Lifeguard 9 years to this date, Kainoa’s passion for riding waves and knowledge of the ocean has become a huge asset to a lifeguard’s skill arsenal and has vitally aided in numerous rescues, saving multiple lives, especially on the North Shore of Oahu. Kainoa McGee takes us back to the first day he started patrolling and the series of events that ensued.
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawai’i Age: 43 Occupation: Pro Bodybarder, Pro Surfer, Hawaiian Waterman, North Shore Lifeguard Territory: North Shore and East Side
Years of experience: 9 years total, the first 4 in town.
Your greatest rescue story is...
My first day working on the North Shore.
It was right at the end of the day and we heard everybody yelling and whistling, which means one of two things, either someone is gonna fight or someone is in need of serious help. In this case it was the latter.
The patient ended up going over the falls as the sea parted beneath him. He hit his head on the bottom, which knocked him unconscious and played a major part in saving his life. Because he was unconscious he didn’t breathe in while underwater and drown himself out of a natural reaction to want to breathe. It appears that he was held under water during and after a big set, which in duration was about 3-5 minutes according to his friend who also saw his board floating in the channel. What he didn’t know was that his friend was still attached to the leash. He thought the leash broke and that maybe his friend swam in. To his surprise when he pushed the board towards the shore, the board stopped abruptly and he knew for sure his friend was still attached. As he started to pull him up, bodyboarders, surfers, photogs and anyone who was close helped to make a floating platform with all of their boards and those with and without fins started kicking him towards the shore. Thankfully, world renowned waterman and badass surfer Gavin Sutherland was there and jumped up on the flotilla, of sorts, and gave him about 16 chest compressions, which brought him back before we got to him. I was the first lifeguard on the scene in the water and my partner Kevin Tinneny was right behind me with a rescue board. Right when we were loading him onto the rescue board, Kirk Zeigler showed up with the rescue ski and got him to the beach where they continued to work on him till EMS showed up and took him to emergency. Thank God he made a full recovery.
Lifeguarding in Town is awesome because…
You never know what’s gonna happen or what you’re gonna see on any given day. Town is a trip and you don’t realize how crazy it is until you’ve spent day after day on the beach. You learn really quickly that “common sense isn’t that common”.
The most fulfilling part of being a lifeguard is…
Being able to help keep all of the beach goers safe and help those who, most times, need saving from themselves whether they know it or not.
Also I’d like to say a massive mahalo’s, love and aloha to all of my Ocean Safety co- workers as well as the brother and sisterhood worldwide. Keep up the awesome work. Even though most times our job is a thankless one it’s the resolve of each individual that makes us a strong team. Keep the world safe gangy.