Death By Instagram: Trying to get the perfect surf shot can be deadly, officials warn

(KHON Photo)
(KHON Photo)

OAHU, Hawaii (KHON) – It’s been a dangerous day out in Oahu’s waters.

Ocean safety officials say lifeguards on the east side were busy with lots of people and big surf.

A high surf warning for east-facing shores was lowered to an advisory, but lifeguards say there were still 95 rescues Monday. They also issued 4,576 preventative warnings across Oahu.

But it’s not just swimmers officials are worried about. This Labor Day weekend has seen more people armed with cameras, putting themselves in danger for the perfect shot.

Crews say people are climbing down to low ledges near the water, and that means they also have the potential of getting swept away.

That’s exactly what happened over the weekend to a hiker who was on a trail near Hanauma Bay.

“All over the whole island, people want that perfect picture. You can’t blame them for wanting a nice picture, but we need to educate them on the dangers of walking out close to the water,” said James Sloane, acting captain for Ocean Safety District 2.

Many view the huge waves as “picture-perfect” opportunities.

“On Instagram, I was looking and somebody went post how big the waves were going to be,” said Cole Jose, who visited Sandy Beach Monday.

KHON2 stopped by a popular photo spot, Lanai Lookout. Two signs were clearly posted. The first one warned “Waves break on the ledge” and right next to it, “Hazardous conditions. Do not go beyond this point.”

But many appeared not to take the signs seriously.

“We do see that a lot. Everybody in Ocean Safety has been seeing that for awhile. The risks you take are putting others lives in danger. That’s what we’re trying to prevent,” Sloane said.

At China Walls, Sloane asked three thrill-seekers close to the shoreline to come back to dry land.

“You’ll see, some waves will come in a few minutes and you’ll see what I mean,” he said.

“That’s very concerning. You see a bunch of people with GoPros and selfie sticks and want to get that perfect shot, risk putting themselves in danger. It’s definitely affecting people’s decision-making, that’s for sure,” said Hawaii Kai resident Ryan Tierney.

Sloane says the picture isn’t worth it.

“Something like here, it’s a lull, doesn’t necessarily look dangerous. But you’ll see waves right here, crash on those rocks, and if they were standing on wet rocks, they’d be swept into the ocean. It’s very, very dangerous,” he said.

Putting yourself in danger for the perfect shot means you’re also putting lifeguards and other emergency personnel in danger in case they need to come to your rescue. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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