Amazing article that explains how the Tahitian Water Patrol operates!
How do you make the decision to go or not to go when there’s a surfer in the impact zone and a 12-foot wave bearing down on you?
It’s a judgment call based on years of experience. You know immediately if you have to rescue someone but, if there’s a wave coming, you only have a few seconds to decide if you go or not. If you are too late, you are not going because you will get pounded by that 12-foot wave. You have to be ready to go when it’s the right time. It’s really important to communicate with your partner, the driver because two lifeguards on the ski make four eyes. Sometimes they don’t see but you look back and you see that wave coming and you say, ‘Hey there is one big one behind, let’s wait a little.’ You don’t put yourself in danger, you do the rescue and you do it at 100 percent, that’s good timing. We have to make the right decision to go or not.
How many seconds do you have to get in, pick up the surfer and get out before the next wave breaks on top of you?
It depends, if we grab a guy we can go straight into the lagoon so it’s fast, it only takes a couple of seconds to pick someone up and a minute to get back into the lineup. The jet skis we have are really powerful so you don’t lose time. Sometimes the surfers choose not to go on the ski and duck dive instead but that takes much longer. Sometimes it’s better and safer to get on the ski, because you’re not on the dry reef so we communicate a lot.