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Water Safety Day and Duke Kahanamoku license plates bills signed into law

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Gov. Josh Green signed two bills into law that bolster water safety awareness and honor the legacy of Duke Kahanamoku, Hawai‘i’s premier waterman, by issuing special license plates commemorating the legendary figure.

Senate Bill 2841 designates May 15 of each year as Water Safety Day in Hawai‘i. This initiative, propelled by the memory of Mina and Mark Hornor as well as other lives lost to drowning, underscores the vital importance of water safety education. Inspired by similar legislation like Yori’s Law in Washington, the bill aims to bring attention to the human stories behind every statistic, emphasizing the need for proactive measures to prevent water-related tragedies.

Senate Bill 116 authorizes the commemorative license plates in honor of Kahanamoku, renowned for his Olympic achievements in swimming and water polo, as well as his cultural contributions

The funds raised from this license plate program will be distributed as drowning prevention grants across the state for programs such as junior lifeguards and learn-to-swim. Duke Kahanamoku invited all people into a relationship with the ocean, and these funds will perpetuate that invitation by teaching more residents how to be safe and comfortable in the water.


At the heart of these bills lies a collective effort from community advocates, including bereaved mothers Allison Schaefers and Shirley De Rego, who have championed the cause of water safety. Their dedication, alongside the Hawai‘i Water Safety Coalition and Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, has propelled these initiatives through the legislative process.

“As we come together to sign the Water Safety Day and Duke Kahanamoku License Plate bills into law, we honor the memory of those we’ve lost to drowning and celebrate the enduring legacy of Duke Kahanamoku,” said Green. “These bills represent a crucial step forward in our commitment to water safety education and the preservation of Duke’s remarkable legacy.

“I extend my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones, as well as my gratitude to all those who have tirelessly advocated for these initiatives. I am confident that they will make a meaningful difference in safeguarding our communities and perpetuating the spirit of aloha. Together, we affirm our dedication to ensuring that Hawai‘i’s waters remain safe and accessible for all.”


Recognizing that drowning is the leading cause of death for Hawai‘i keiki ages 1 to 15 and that Hawaiʻi ranks second in the nation for the rate of drowning among residents, these bills mark a significant milestone in Hawai‘i’s commitment to safeguarding its residents in and around the water.


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