Vertra x HLA | Ambassador Spotlight with Derek Wong
About the HLA
The Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, known as the HLA, is an independent organization representing the unified voice of the 450+ lifeguards across the state of Hawaii. Their commitment and non-profit status allows for the critical fundraising that is necessary to purchase essential safety equipment, as well as supplement the Junior Lifeguard programs statewide.
Vertra X HLA: A Mission to Protect
What Vertra and the HLA have in common is a core mission to protect surfers and ocean lovers from the elements. That’s why Vertra has been the Official Sun Care Provider for the HLA since 2007, ensuring their lifeguards have plenty of sunscreen and gear all year around. Another overlap is that many former professional surfers, watermen, and waterwomen who have used premium sunscreens over their careers, naturally transition into the lifesaving profession. So, in that sense, the partnership is very organic in every sense of the word.
Vertra’s support of the HLA is also something a little more personal. We have always felt that lifeguards simply don’t get the credit and shine that other First-Responders do, as well as being underpaid and underappreciated. Considering the critical role they play in the safety of Hawaii’s beaches, and that the state’s largest source of income is tourism, keeping tourists safe and ocean-related incidents out of the headlines is crucial. Also, despite being the only department in which its workers have to pass stringent physical tests and recertifications yearly to retain employment, they are the lowest paid of all their First Responder counterparts.
That being said, becoming a lifeguard is such a commendable job and one that can only be entered into with a sense of purpose, passion, and love. Similar to teachers and other noble occupations, you commit to the job knowing you will never become rich doing it. The inner DNA to help people first is something that must be present above everything else.
The HLA aligns with Vertra’s values, mission, and love for the ocean, so this partnership just makes sense. Vertra’s longtime support of the HLA simply reaffirms our acknowledgement and gratitude for the key role they play in keeping us all safe doing what we love to do.
HLA Ambassador: Derek Wong
Derek started surfing competitively at 9 years old and has racked up numerous awards during his career. He notes that his most memorable and rewarding win was his first National Title in June 2004 at the US Surfing Championships in Oceanside, California.
We asked him about other surfing highlights and he said his best moments were during his time as a sponsored athlete. He stated that, “traveling to new places and meeting awesome people that share the same passion as me was the best part…. I've been lucky enough to travel to the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, and all throughout California.”
After an accomplished competitive surfing journey, he’s now a lifeguard at Hanauma Bay. He told us that the people he’s met in this field over the last decade are what matters most to him; he knows he can count on his partners wherever he gets stationed.
We’re so happy to have such passionate ambassadors on our team and respect Derek’s dedication to serving his community. Check out Derek Wong’s Instagram and the HLA’s Official Instagram for more information!