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15 Hawaiian Lifeguard Essentials For Summer

Photo: OluKai

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Roughly 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and humans tend to flock to that water en masse. In fact, something like four-fifths of the entire population of Earth lives within 100 miles of an ocean. Especially in the warmer months of the year, that means there are a huge number of people gathering on the shores with hopes of relaxing and cooling off. And there’s only one profession standing between those people and potential disaster: lifeguards.

While there are lifeguard organizations around the world, one of the most important and impactful is undoubtedly the HLA — short for the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association. Inspired by the selfless acts of Hawaiian-born lifeguard (with a count of over 500 souls saved) and legendary surfer, Eddie Aikau, the HSA now counts a whopping 450+ guards amongst their numbers. And the lot of them tirelessly patrol the sometimes unforgiving shores of what some consider the most beautiful islands in the world. To pay tribute to these heroes, we’ve put together a collection of essential gear of the quality and caliber necessary to accompany these selfless men and women in their lifesaving endeavors. These are 15 lifeguard essentials for summer.

OluKai ‘Īnana Athletic Shoe

Especially in Hawaii, lifeguarding isn’t just a job — it’s a lifestyle. And that means people who do it have to stay in lifesaving shape all-year. It was with that fact in mind that OluKai decided to build their athletic ‘Īnana sneakers — streamlined with a one-piece mesh upper and a ‘Wet Grip Rubber’ outsole with barnacle-inspired lugs. Tested over rigorous oceanic terrain by none other than the HLA, these durable sneakers also feature a handy Drop-In Heel that allows them to function both as normal sneakers and quick-wearing slip-ons — making them far more versatile than the competition. And, like all of OluKai’s gear, a purchase of these shoes gives money back to the Ama OluKai Foundation, which supports the preservation and celebration of Hawaiian culture and heritage.

Purchase: $120

The Surfer’s Journal

Not all lifeguards are surfers, but we bet there’s enough out there who appreciate the sport to make The Surfer’s Journal near-compulsory reading. This absolutely stunning magazine features some of the most beautiful ocean photography alongside a wealth of inspirational and educational stories about all-things-surfing and a good deal that’s tangentially related to the sport. And it’s all the more enticing that subscriptions start at just $6.

Purchase: $6+

MCR Medical CPR Rescue Mask

Knowledge of CPR is absolutely essential to the lifestyle of lifeguards. But being able to save lives is also contingent upon keeping yourself safe. That’s why we suggest that all lifeguards (and lifesaving personnel in general) carry with them a one-way CPR mask. This one, in particular, comes with its own carry case, can cover both the mouth and nose of any potential victims for the best chance to save them, and is easy to clean and sanitize between uses.

Purchase: $10

Pelican Sport Wallet

Most wallets are made to be put into your pocket and forgotten about until you need your cash, cards, ID, or otherwise. But rare is the wallet that was built to withstand the wrath of Poseidon. Pelican’s Sport Wallet, however, is actually waterproof — with an IP54 rating — to keep all your valuables dry as a bone no matter the weather or circumstances (like jumping into a pool to save a drowning child). It’s also crushproof, comes with a handy lanyard, and is guaranteed for life.

Purchase: $22

EiR NYC Surf Mud Sunscreen

Everyone who spends time out in the sun should know the value of good sunscreen. But it’s also important, especially if you care about the health of the environment, to consciously choose a sunscreen that’s reef-safe. That’s exactly the case with the EiR Surf Mud you see here. On top of that, it also features Zinc for broad-spectrum protection, chocolate for hydration, and it’s even cruelty-free. Best of all, it’s water-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about it washing off when you take a dip.

Purchase: $22

Rumpl Shammy Towel

We knew it was a tall order when we heard that Rumpl had set out to build the ultimate towel. But, with the Shammy Towel, they might have managed exactly that. Perfect for the beach, pool, yoga, or even just for your daily shower, this quick-drying towel is remarkably soft, super absorbent, and even repels a wide variety of things you don’t want on your body or towel — like sand, dirt, pet hair, stains, and odors.

Purchase: $39

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Especially in the summer months, staying hydrated is of the utmost importance — not just for lifeguards, but everyone under the sun. And that’s why a water bottle is definitely essential summer gear. This one, from Hydro Flask, boasts double-layer insulation to keep cool liquids cool for up to 24 hours and hot ones hot for 6. It’s also durable, thanks to its steel construction, and this one has a staw lid for easy drinking on-the-go.

Purchase: $45+

Kiefer Lifeguard Rescue Can

Next to a bathing suit, a rescue can is probably the most important and recognizable piece of lifeguard gear out there. And that’s with good reason: these flotation devices are integral to the act of saving lives. Not only will they help the user stay afloat, but they also help keep any drowning victims afloat and can go a long way toward ensuring that the lifeguard isn’t dragged underwater in the act of saving a life.

Purchase: $60

SurfEars 3.0

The ocean can be an unforgiving mistress, especially for those who don’t keep their vulnerable points protected — like your ear canals. From infections to bone spurs, getting ocean water in your ears can be extremely dangerous and damaging. But that’s what SurfEars are for. These earplugs will keep your ear canal safe from the negative effects of the sea and will still allow you to hear your surroundings in the process.

Purchase: $60

Best Made Co. Small Metal First Aid Kit

Lifeguarding isn’t all slow-motion jogging and CPR. Sometimes, it means providing varying levels of first aid for those in need. And to do that, you’re going to need a fully-featured first aid kit — like this one from Best Made Co. Loaded into a handsome tin, this kit contains all the basics one might need to dress a wound, cool a burn, and so much more.

Purchase: $68

OluKai ‘Ohana Pow! Wow! Beach Sandals

While not always practical, there’s no denying that flip flops are the quintessential beach-going footwear. And these ones from OluKai are all the better, thanks to their water-resistant synthetic straps, compression-molded EVA midsole, and durable rubber outsole. As if that superb construction and anatomically-friendly design wasn’t enough, these ones also feature custom laser-etched artwork from Hawaiian artist Matthew Tapia.

Purchase: $75

Birdwell 310 Board Shorts

Every good lifeguard needs a good pair of board shorts — and they just don’t get much better than those made by California-based surf brand, Birdwell. Made in the USA and boasting a lifetime guarantee, these handsome trunks boast a SurfNyl quick-drying fabric exterior, triple-stitched seams for unheard-of durability, a nylon drawcord for the perfect fit, and even have a pocket for your surf wax, keys, or whatever else.

Purchase: $79

Spyderco Salt 2 Folding Knife

Most everyday carry knives crumble in the face of even the slightest amount of moisture and corrosion — meaning they’re not well-equipped to deal with the harshness of the ocean. Conversely, the Spyderco Salt 2 was built specifically with seafaring in mind. Whether you’re a fisherman who needs a solid cutting tool or a lifeguard looking to boost your kit with a sturdy emergency blade, this corrosion-resistant H-1 steel blade with its fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle will certainly get the job done right.

Purchase: $82

Hawaiian Lifeguard Association 5509 Watch

Specifically made for the HLA, this handsome dive watch is absolutely perfect for any and all lifeguarding endeavors. In fact, it boasts a solid stainless steel case that’s waterproof at up to 200 meters, comes equipped with a durable and weatherproof rubber strap for all-conditions wear, has a reliable Japanese quartz movement that keeps the hands ticking, and it even features a rotating dive timer bezel. As far as we’re concerned, if it’s good enough for the HLA, it’s good enough for us.

Purchase: $250

Costa OCEARCH Half Moon Sunglasses

These handsome, polarized shades are sure to keep your eyes safe from the harsh effects of the sun — whether you’re watching out for people caught in a rip tide or relaxing in your backyard during a BBQ. And while their good looks and solid construction are more than enough to make them worth the money, they also come with an added benefit: the proceeds of the sale go directly toward shark research, helping to make the beaches safer for man and beast alike.

Purchase: $259