“Last year we had some big swells and there was a lot of drama out on the water.
“One six-man vaka tipped going over the reef opposite the sailing club. It actually went upside down. That was pretty scary. I was on the reef by myself trying to save them all.”
A quick response by Vaka Eiva officials communication with the crew of a lagoon cruise boat morred at the motu assisted Hand in the rescue.
“There were some major injuries where paddlers weren’t able to compete again for at least a two- year period.
“But fortunately everyone went home in one piece.”
Hand was appointed head lifeguard following a two-week intensive instructors’ course in October facilitated by the Cook Islands Red Cross.
Having surfed since he was young, Hand says he’s always been into water rescue, but became serious about gaining certification in the last three years.
He will be overseeing a crew of five other lifeguards who also completed advanced training with Red Cross last month. – Chris Taylor