U.S. Coast Guard seeks surfers, water polo players

2003 Seabury Hall grad leading the campaign


The U.S. Coast Guard is looking for a few good Maui surfers and water polo players willing to jump out of helicopters to rescue people trapped in 40-foot seas.

“It’s definitely not for the faint of heart,” Lt. Dylan McCall said Thursday.

McCall, who was born and raised in Paia and is a 2003 Seabury Hall grad, is leading a campaign to recruit watermen and -women from his home island before expanding the program nationwide. He was given the green light to begin the initiative by Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Water polo players have to float for hours and surfers are in the water all the time and get pounded by big waves,” he said. “Those are the type of people we’ve concentrated our recruitment efforts on for jobs such as being a helicopter rescue swimmer and the folks that drive those boats into the biggest seas imaginable.”

Through McCall’s efforts, the Coast Guard recently has been reaching out to high-schoolers at Maui Interscholastic League surf contests and at last weekend’s 14th Menehune Mayhem hosted by big-wave surfer Ian Walsh. A booth is set up at the events, where McCall and other Coast Guard personnel from Station Maui at Maalaea and Oahu hand out Coast Guard promotional gear and help people apply.

The U.S. Coast Guard is recruiting Maui surfers and water polo players to apply for helicopter rescue swimmer jobs. * U.S. Coast Guard photo

“It’s kind of ironic, surfers are usually nonmilitary types, but the Coast Guard is probably the least militarylike,” McCall said. “I’m a prime example of someone from Maui who can succeed at the U.S. Coast Guard and so I’m trying to help other people from Maui.”

Growing up surfing at Hookipa, Maalaea and Honolua, McCall always wanted to work in the water and attended the California Maritime Academy. By his junior year, he transitioned into the Coast Guard and has served for the past decade.

“It’s been pretty awesome. I’ve been stationed all over the U.S.,” he said.

He took a 378-foot Coast Guard ship to Alaska and the Bering Sea and navigated the vessel through icy waters, assisting the same fishermen seen on the Discovery Channel show “Deadliest Catch.” He and his crew would be on 24-hour standby ready to rescue fishermen who fall overboard or need emergency medical support and transport to a medical facility onshore.

They also chased out foreign fishing vessels from U.S. waters.

“Navigating a ship that size in those treacherous waters was a really eye-opening experience,” McCall said.

From there, he moved on to Coast Guard headquarters for mariner credentialing and conducting professional, criminal and medical background checks on those who navigate cruise ships, tugboats and container ships. Three years later, he transferred to Oregon, where he prepared the Coast Guard for various scenarios, such as natural disasters, mass rescues, major oil spills and terrorist attacks, by developing exercises to test contingency plans.

McCall currently serves in response operation planning, where he coordinates the Coast Guard’s involvement in major naval training exercises. He was recently in charge of the Coast Guard’s participation in RIMPAC 2016 — the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise held every two years in Hawaiian waters. He’s currently working on the Coast Guard’s involvement in a major naval exercise being held in Peru.

“The Coast Guard has been super awesome to me, and I kind of wanted to share that with people on Maui,” McCall said.

The new campaign seeks to reach the surfing community and young watermen and -women, who may not know what profession to take up in life.

“Right now, if you signed up, within six months you could be a rescue swimmer and be jumping out of helicopters rescuing people, which is unheard of because before we had a two-year wait for this program,” he said. “We’re looking for more qualified candidates because one thing the Coast Guard can’t teach is being comfortable in the water.”

McCall likened the real-life training and rescues to the 2006 action film “The Guardian,” in which Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher portray rescue swimmers for the Coast Guard. He said that rescuers endure rigorous in-water training to prepare for life-and-death situations.

The Coast Guard plans to sponsor surf associations and more contests across the nation in the future, but McCall said he wanted to start the campaign in the community he knows best. He said that the initiative started “purely out of my own passion and love” for surfing and saving people’s lives.

“I’m giving Maui first chance here, right here and now,” he said.

For more information on how to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard, call the Oahu recruiting office at (808) 486-8677 or email McCall at dylan.k.mccall@uscg.mil.

For more information on the U.S. Coast Guard, visit www.gocoastguard.com.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.


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