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EFP student lives lifeguard dream

by Hiro Ishimaru, A & E editor

Sayori Suzuki swims, runs, and does weight training at the Nuuanu branch of the YMCA on weekdays. On the weekend, she surfs with a Malibu board (a paddle board) at Kalaeloa, Barbers Point, on O‘ahu’s south shore.

Suzuki, a student in the English Foundation Program at HPU, came to Hawai‘i to be a lifeguard in 2000, after she graduated from a sport science university in Tiba prefecture, Japan. She had been preparing for this all her life.


When Suzuki entered kindergarten in Ibaraki prefecture, her mother decided that she should learn to swim at a swimming school. “I did not like to swim at the time, but I was not afraid of swimming, even though I was just 3 or 4 years old. I began to like to swim because I met a good swimming teacher,” Suzuki said. “Swimming is really fun.”

When she entered the sport science university in 1996, she found a way to make swimming a career as a lifeguard. “I didn’t know what a lifeguard was; it was a new word to me,” she said. “I wanted to start a new thing.” She joined a lifeguard club, and older members taught her how to train to be a lifeguard.

“ The lifeguard club changed my life,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of universities I graduate from, but it was important to join the lifeguard club, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have come to Hawai‘i.”

While she was a university student in Tiba, Suzuki had a part-time job as a lifeguard on beaches every summer. She rescued many people. “I really enjoyed training and having the part-time job, but when I was rescuing someone, I was very serious,” she said. “A lifeguard handles matters of life and death, and it is a huge responsibility.”

“Nothing happening on the beach is very good, because that means people are safe,” she said. “Lifeguards have to prevent accidents from happening.”

Suzuki’s hero is Masami Yusa, the first Japanese lifeguard to win a world championship (at Rescue 1996, held at Durban, South Africa). Yusa also won the championship at Rescue 2000 in Sydney, Australia.

“ Yusa is the most famous lifeguard in Japan, and she is great” Suzuki said. “I also want to be a famous lifeguard.”

Suzuki won the championship in cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the All Japan Intercollegiate cup in 1998, just before she decided to move to Hawai‘i. “There are no Japanese lifeguards in Hawai‘i; however, there are many Japanese tourists on beaches,” she explained. “I wanted to be the first Japanese lifeguard in Hawai‘i.”

Suzuki did not like studying English in Japan, but after she moved to Hawai‘i, she spent time learning it at the Intercultural Communications College for a year and at HPU for two years. “I know it is not easy for non-native speakers to find work in the U.S., but I was able to be a volunteer lifeguard, so I may have a chance to get a work permit,” she said.

“ I don’t want to give up,” she said. “You only live once.”


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