Coast Guard reunites surfboard with owner on Oahu

Service members from Coast Guard Sector Honolulu reunite an owner with his surfboard at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, June 3, 2020. The surfboard was good by the crew of the commercial towing vessel Tira Lani and was returned to the owner after he contact Sector Honolulu to report it lost. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu)

Service members from Coast Guard Sector Honolulu reunite an owner with his surfboard at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, June 3, 2020.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu)

HONOLULU — A surfboard was reunited with its owner, Lance Blake, at Coast Guard Base Honolulu after being found adrift off Honolulu Harbor, Wednesday.

The reunion was possible because Blake contacted Sector Honolulu watchstanders to report the lost surfboard after a friend remembered seeing a press release requesting waterway users to notify the Coast Guard of missing property.

“Whenever we find adrift watercraft, we always operate under the assumption someone is in trouble,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Bryant, a Coast Guard Sector Honolulu watchstander. “When Mr. Blake notified us this morning of his missing surfboard, we verified the one found was his and stood down our search assets. He did exactly the right thing by notifying us, allowing our crews to preserve their response readiness for other emergencies.”

Early this morning, Blake was out on the water when he became separated from his surfboard after the ankle strap broke. He was unable to recover the board and swam safely back to shore.

At 7 a.m., Sector Honolulu watchstanders received a call from the master of the commercial towing vessel Tira Lani stating they found a surfboard adrift outside the harbor entrance. Sector Honolulu watchstanders issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast notice to mariners, contacted the Honolulu Fire Department, and dispatched a Station Honolulu 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew to search the area.

“Once on shore, Mr. Blake had a friend who remembered a press release from last year requesting you contact the Coast Guard if you lose your watercraft,” said Bryant. “They were able to find the release and call us, allowing us to recall the RB-M crew. This case highlights the importance of notification when your gear is missing. Had he not called and another emergency occurred, our assets would have been tied up in searching for someone who wasn’t in trouble and unnecessarily stretched our response capabilities between two cases.”

To combat the problem of false searches, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary have created a program called Operation Paddle Smart, designed to help Coast Guard responders contact owners of found watercraft to verify they are safe.

A crucial part of Operation Paddle Smart is the free “If Found” stickers for waterway users to put on their craft. The decals provide response parties with a name and two valid phone numbers to attempt and reach the owner should their item be found.

“These stickers are a huge help when it comes to verifying if we are dealing with an actual emergency or not,” said Bryant. “People become separated from their property all the time, whether because it’s lost while in use, like today, blown away by strong winds, or taken out with the tides. Cases like this highlight the importance of properly securing your gear when not in use.”

The “If Found” stickers are available for free at local harbormasters, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Honolulu Sail and Power Squadron offices, and many marine retail and supply stores.

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