HONOLULU -- Now that summer is underway (Memorial Day, May 27, was the unofficial launch of the season), it's time to bust out the swimsuits, pack up the car and head out to one of Hawaii's many beaches for a day of fun in the sun.

However, as more people spend more time outdoors between the months of May and September, the need to remain vigilant of safety risks increases, as well.

According to Brig. Gen. Timothy Edens, director of Army Safety and commander, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center (USACR/Safety Center), summer is the deadliest time of the year for Soldiers, civilians and family members.

"Even though it is always summer (in Hawaii) -- it is very tranquil, it is very full of aloha spirit -- not being ready can kill you," seconds Shelly Leslie, chief, Outdoor Recreation Center; Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, which offers programs and instruction in outdoor safety to all eligible FMWR guests.

Here in the islands, concerns revolving around ocean safety are of top priority. Each year more than 60 individuals drown in Hawaii, making the state second in the nation for this deadly statistic. What's more, military personnel account for approximately 4 percent of drownings annually, and 50 percent of all deaths occur in victims age 35 years or younger.

"We're surrounded by ocean, and people just don't realize, a) how big the ocean is, b) how dangerous it can be, and c) all the things you can't see that can really mess you up," said Leslie, noting that Makapuu, Sandy's, Waimea and Keawaula beaches average 294 rescues per 100,000 people because of strong undercurrents.

Other issues of high importance include overexposure to heat, humidity, vog and sun, too much of which can wreak major havoc on the body and your health.

"In dry heat, you sweat, but not profusely; in humid heat, you sweat profusely," Leslie explained. "Drink lots of water, and if you're not a plain-water person, add in some water flavoring. As long as you're drinking water, you're good."

To ensure everyone has a fun, safe summer, Leslie offered the following advice:

•Check the weather report before leaving the security of your home. Weather in Hawaii can change at the drop of a hat, so if the forecast calls for thunderstorms, even though the sky outside is clear, reconsider activities that may take hours to complete, such as hiking or kayaking.

"Utilize your resources," Leslie advised. "Pull up the surf report, download the weather apps. Or, stop by our office. We're the SMEs (subject matter experts), we're experienced and we're here to help."

•Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and reapply frequently. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults between 25-29, with more new cases developing each year than in breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.

"Everybody can catch skin cancer -- it doesn't matter what color your skin is or how young you are," said Leslie. "This is a really nasty disease, and you don't want to get it."

Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and when you are outdoors, wear a hat, UV-blocking sunglasses and special sun-protective clothing made with high ultraviolet protection (UPF).

•Don't underestimate your surroundings, or overestimate your own capabilities. Heed warning signs; they're posted for a reason. Only surf or swim at beaches where there is a lifeguard on duty, and only tackle approved hiking trails.

•Never drink and play. "Alcohol is proven to make you braver," Leslie said. "You lose your common sense and inhibitions about things. It's a poor choice when you mix alcohol with an activity that could kill you."

•Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to return home. Even better, take along a friend or make it a group activity. Having a companion will not only increase your safety, it'll up the fun factor, too!

"There are lots of things out there that people die of, just by not being prepared," Leslie offered. "Education is the answer, and we're going to reach out and talk to as many people as we can talk to."

Outdoor Recreation Center

Outdoor Recreation offers instruction in a variety of activities, including mountain biking. The center offers a wide assortment of programs for Soldiers and families who love exploring the great outdoors.

In addition to tutorials and tours in surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, biking, hiking, fishing, snorkeling, Hawaiian canoe paddling, kayaking, scuba diving and paintball, Outdoor Recreation provides rentals on the necessities for camping (think tents, lanterns, portable stoves and coolers) and outdoor sports, as well as ever-popular party essentials like inflatable bouncers, canopies, tables, chairs, barbecue grills, popcorn and shave ice machines, and even a dunk tank!

The center, located at 435 Ulrich Way, Bldg. 2110, is open between 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Call 808-655-0143.

Summer activities

The Outdoor Recreation Center welcomes summer with a splash, this month and next, with the following water-sport programs:

•June 8, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Intro to Surfing I -- Suitable for all ages and abilities, $54;
•June 22, 6:30-10:30 p.m., Moonlight Kayak/SUP -- $59;
•June 29, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Adventure Kayaking I -- Suitable for all ages and abilities, $59;
•July 6, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m., Intro to Kayaking/Surfing -- $54;
•July 10, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Fishing Class -- Required for Kayak Fishing;
•July 11, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Lure Making;
•July 20, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Kayak Fishing -- $59;
•July 22, 6:30-10:30 p.m., Evening SUP/Kayak -- $59; and
•July 27, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., SUP 101 -- Suitable for all ages and abilities.

In addition, ORC offers open-water dive certification courses, every other week.