Hawaii is now moving a bill through its legislature that would require yacht and boat charters to have a certified lifeguard or rescue diver on board to ensure the safety of passengers in activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. This is a bill that we will be watching very closely and a bill that we support.
Those rules would require every excursion or tour group to have at least one person who is either a rescue diver or lifeguard certified by a nationally recognized certification organization. While pool lifeguards may jump at the opportunity, they are not USLA ocean lifeguards trained for open water operations.
This new bill wouldn’t apply to vessels that are inspected by the Coast Guard and that have at least one crew member aboard who is lifeguard certified, CPR certified and basic first aid certified however many want lifeguards on all charters whether or not they are inspected by USCG.
It would also require every vessel used to transport customers be equipped with a backboard, emergency oxygen and an AED among its onboard safety equipment. Lifeguards of course would come equipped as well.
As Hawaii lawmakers are pushing this bill, we are proactively reaching out to Southern California charter operators from Long Beach to Santa Barbara to make them aware that we offer ocean lifeguards for local excursions. The main message is that safety should always be a priority no matter what type of charter it is. The feedback has been very positive for reputable and legitimate operators however there are many illegal charters operating that can be found advertising on Craigslist or social media. Those “illegal” operators may not put safety first as profits drive them.
Here in the Southern California region, charters are booked on a year-round basis for holiday parties on deck to whale watching tours, etc. The holiday charters are especially of concern as alcohol is often made available which presents a set of challenges exclusive to maritime operations. Additionally, many charters offer day excursions for those looking to do snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Most injuries and drowning incidents involve those who participate in snorkeling.
As of this post, Golden State Lifeguards has secured two contracts for ocean lifeguard services for some notable Marina Del Rey based yacht charter companies. They recognize the importance of having safety personnel on board in case the unthinkable happens. Our services have already been validated as we have made one rescue involving a distressed paddle boarder near Pacific Palisades. One just never knows when a lifeguard will be needed.
Our official position is that California should follow Hawaii’s lead and consider the same type of legislation that puts safety first on all charters.