Learn how to stay wave safe in American Samoa.
Everyone is captivated by the beauty of the remote islands of American Samoa and the rich Samoan heritage as ocean voyagers and protectors.
To protect yourself and others on these stunning but dangerous coastlines, you must always respect the ocean, Fa’aaloalo i le sami.
And be careful whenever you are in or near the water, Fa’aeteete i le sami.
Throughout these islands you’ll see steep and jagged cliffs, sharp rocks, unguarded beaches and pounding surf. Hidden at or below the surface are ava, with currents that can pull you out to sea and sharp reefs that can cause severe injuries.
The remoteness of these South Pacific islands means that everyone must serve as a protector for themselves, their family and the village.
In American Samoa there are no professional ocean lifeguards, so you need to think like a lifeguard; always watch the water and those around you. If something does happen, be calm before you act to save the lives of others and perhaps your own.
Stay safe and respect Samoan tradition by never swimming off an undesignated beach without checking with a village leader.
Deadly situations can develop when people go in the water alone or end up in the water without intending to be there.
Waves can easily knock someone off a cliff and over a reef, leaving them trapped against rocks with pounding surf. Currents can then rapidly pull anyone further into dangerous situations.
A first step to being safer near or in the water is knowing how to swim and more importantly how to stay calm if you end up in the water when you may not mean to.
The most important skill is being able to float on your back while staying calm. This simple ability may allow you to self rescue or give others time to reach you.
A unique hazard to islands with reef and rock coastlines are ava, where tidal water rushes from the beach toward the ocean through narrow gaps in the coral reefs. These currents can be far stronger than any swimmer and pull them far out to sea.
Once pulled out past the jagged reefs, the first thing to do is stay calm. At the same time, stay afloat and signal to others on shore.
When you see someone else in trouble, and before you act, practice what we call Take Ten or Faatali. Pause for ten seconds, to assess the situation and plan the safest way to protect yourself and help the victim.
You can do the most good by staying calm. Never rush into the water unless you’re a professional ocean lifeguard with the proper equipment and support.
Often when a second person enters the water to help they can become the tragic victim. Please don’t ever enter the water until additional help arrives.
Signal to others by waving your hands and call 911 if you have a phone. If you have a whistle the standard lifeguard warning for an emergency is repeating three short, loud blasts.
That means come running, come help.
Keep an eye on the victim, and look for a rope or floatation device. The rule for helping others is to reach or throw and don’t go. A rope may help you pull them to safety. Tossing them a float may keep you and the victim safe.
If you can’t pull them to shore, help them stay calm by maintaining eye contact and talking until professional help can get them.
The best way to stay safe? Don’t end up in dangerous situations. Keep your eyes on the water and stay aware of changing conditions like, weather, tides and currents that can make any wave more dangerous.
Dangerous waves and ocean conditions threaten lives every day in these tropical islands. Respecting the ocean and protecting others is the Samoan way and it’s a practice we should all follow.
Even in paradise, remember Fa’aaloalo i le sami and Fa’aeteete i le sami. And if you see a dangerous situation Faatali before you act because you must first protect yourself in order to save others.
Fa’aaloalo i le Vasa, Fa’atete i le Vasa, Faatali!