On Tuesday, January 18, Kona Patrol Officer Reuben Pukahi was honored with the Haweo Award during a ceremony held at Hawai‘i County Council chambers in Kona. During the ceremony, Pukahi was presented with a lei and a certificate signed by each Councilmember.On August 10, 2021, surf conditions made it very dangerous for amateur and inexperienced beach goers. Officer Pukahi, along with Kona Community Policing Sergeant Michael Hardie, were at Honl’s Beach Park on Ali‘i Drive addressing community complaints of undesirable activities in the area. Sergeant Hardie and Officer Pukahi observed a young boy with a body board attempting to enter the water. It was apparent he didn’t have the experience to safely handle the surf conditions. As the officers were speaking with the boy, they observed two older women attempting to enter the water on the opposite side of the beach. The women were unaware of the dangers posed by the large surf, and were both carrying masks and snorkels, but no swim fins. Before officers could intervene, the two women entered the water and were quickly separated and swept away from shore by the strong currents, directly into the path of the large breaking surf. The women began to tread water but weren’t able to swim toward shore. Seeing the women in distress, some area surfers started paddling over to assist them. Seeing that the situation was getting worse and more assistance was needed, Officer Pukahi quickly changed out of his police uniform and into his traditional surf attire and commandeered a bystander’s surfboard. Paddling through the surf to one of the women, Officer Pukahi pulled her onto his surfboard just as she was about to be swept onto the rocks and brought her back to shore safely. Both women sustained only minor abrasions and were very grateful for the life-saving actions of Officer Pukahi and the other surfers.
The award, presented by the Council’s Parks and Recreation and Public Safety Committee (PRPSC), recognizes county police and fire department personnel who go above and beyond the call of duty. Haweo, for which this award is named, means to glow or to be radiant.
Photo credit: Hawaiʻi County Police Department