A race across the sand to a Kealia lifeguard tower for a rescue tube convinced Vicki Sterne, of Beach Toolz, that her contribution to water safety was not just needed, but vital to the safety of Kaua`i’s visitors.
“I was walking down the beach meditating on whether or not to
Up to this point, the long time resident and former concierge had thought her impulse to create an app on Kaua`i beaches somewhat ludicrous.
“I’m a ballet dancer,” she said.
But a well-meaning guest at Kiahuna Plantation, where she worked in the beach hut, suggested she consider it.
“He told me I was so good at relaying information that I should develop an app,” she recalled. “He even gave me an iPhone.” Then confessed she didn’t touch it for months, out of intimidation.
That was in 2009. In November 2011, Beach Toolz launched. But that was after plenty of research and a steep learning curve.
One thing she learned was how many other apps create lists.
“I’m pretty visual,” she said. “So I knew I wanted to work with GPS and a map.”
Sterne’s Kaua`i Beach Guide iPhone app features a map of Kaua`i divided into four sections. It opens with the beach color-coding system. Because safety is the reason she founded her company, a surf advisory banner runs across the top of the map.
“I want water conditions in your face so there is no ignoring it,” she said. “As a concierge my job was to be sure guests were well-informed. They are on vacation and don’t think anything bad can happen to them.”
Geared toward first and second time visitors, Sterne’s app is available for .99 cents on iTunes and Apple’s App Store.
The app costs the same price of a song because Sterne didn’t want buyers to think twice before purchasing.
Features include GPS and the safety color-coding: green for life guarded beaches; yellow for calm water — zero to two feet; and red for swimming not recommended. There are also filters that can be applied for child friendly, lifeguarded beaches and water conditions.
On a lighter note, Sterne includes a history section and cultural relevance.
“This was the fun part,” she said. “To really bring it home what a magical place Kaua`i is I did research on history and culture at the library.”
Photos of the 64 beaches included in the app appear, as well as details on facilities and activities like hiking, snorkeling and body boarding.
Her research included lifeguard interviews and long discussions with well-known water safety advocate and Emergency Room physician, Dr. Monty Downs.
It was important to Sterne to give voice to lifeguards.
Sterne went to each of the 10 lifeguard towers on island to ask, “if you could say anything to a visitor, what would it be?”
She includes their quotes as well as Dr. Downs’ suggestions for safety criteria.
“I want the app to be positive, but after the 11 drownings this year, it’s important to add a section just on hazards,” she said. “I don’t want the dangers to be glossed over.”
According to a 2011 report published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 73 percent of drowning victims on Kaua`i are visitors and 85 percent of those are male.
Kaua`i Beach Guide App has no advertisements.
“That’s because I don’t want them distracting from the information,” she said. “I spent my savings doing this. I can’t really know if it saves a life but I have to believe it’s helping keep people safe.”
Visit beachtoolz.com for more information or download on iTunes for .99 cents.