My wife and I just returned from Kauai last night. On our final full day on this beautiful island, we decided to brave the Kalalau trail to Hanakapi‘ai beach. This was somewhat of a strenuous (and muddy!) hike for us as it was our first real hike. Upon reaching Hanakapi‘ai beach we finally breathed a sigh of relief and though we would take a load off and relax a few minutes before heading back.
Just then we heard loud cries for "Help, Somebody Help Us!" near the water and looked out to find 2 children in the ocean about 50+ feet in that were getting quickly swept not only out but farther west which was particularly treacherous because the beach ends there and all that remains are miles of coastlines and jagged rock.
The water seemed really rough and the waves were huge (at least to me being from CA). These 2 kids were literally just carried Westward and out of view within about 20 seconds. After they could no longer be seen the father raced with lightning speed up the rocks along the beach, grabbed the life preserver that is hanging there on a tree and dove in after them. He ran right past me and I could see the determination in his eyes. Without hesitating a bit he jumped in and swam for his kids. Easy to say "sure any father would do the same", but he was a very brave man to take that coastline with full force and jump into those rocky waters especially not even being able to see those kids around the corner when he went.
This family had passed my wife and I on the trail just about 10 minutes before we arrived at the beach. They were very nice and polite and our hearts immediately went out to them.
After the father went in after them we saw or heard no sign of them for about 30 minutes. From the beach you cant see westward at all, we only knew that they swam in that direction. We feared the worst but hoped for the best. On the beach we all got our cell phones out to try to make an emergency call, but no one had any service to do so. We then tried to flag down tour helicopters that were passing by the area. All of us on that beach (about 30 people) were yelling and waving frantically at them as they passed overhead. We had no idea though if they saw us or realized that anything was wrong. Then we started writing SOS in the sand with our feet hoping that the helicopters would see it, then making bigger letters with rocks to spell them out.
All this time we had no idea if anyone knew that the family was out there, and from the beach we saw no sign of them. Eventually a few of us, my wife and I included decided to head back to try and get cell phone service and call for emergency rescue. About 40 minutes into our hike back we got a good vantage point from the trail and could see what looked like 2 people further west on the coastline that had made it up on some rocks (this inlet couldn't be seen from the beach below). Our hearts felt relieved but still we couldn't see how they could be rescued in such rough waters and with no helicopter access on the side of the cliff.
A few minutes later we saw a sea-doo out in there location then a zodiac and we knew that the tour helicopters must have called for help and seen our signs of distress.
After we reached the beginning of the trail, the rescue effort was still underway. Finally we saw this news story and were overjoyed that all 3 had been safely rescued:
I think it's hard to relay the gravity of the situation as it was amazingly more intense being there at that time than reading about it online.
Moral of the story, if anyone reading this post takes that hike please do not go swimming at this beach, don't even wade in the water here, just enjoy the view from the stones right at the beach. It is very rough and what I saw transpire happened literally in a matter of seconds.
The father of these kids was a very brave man and I have no doubt that he saved both of their lives that day. I think they are all very lucky to be alive based on the conditions they had to endure. That cave/inlet they found was literally the last chance they had to get any relief from those waters, otherwise it was just rocky cliffs straight up for miles westward.
Indeed it is an experience that ourselves and everyone on that beach that day will never forget.