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Lifeguard, the Story?

The word “lifeguard” may be self-explanatory, but the actual meaning of what it is to be a lifeguard is much more complicated. Obtaining the title of ocean lifeguard is no easy task; however, it is one that stays with that person his/her entire life. When the word lifeguard comes to mind most people conjure up disgusting mental images of an overly faked tanned David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson running down the beach lubed with baby oil. That rather terrible 90's television series Bay Watch did a number to what people believe lifeguarding is all about. Sure the job has its perks, but lifeguarding isn't just hard bodies, sun, sand, parties, and white zinc on your nose. Lifeguarding is not just a glamorous summer job; it is a lifestyle that only the most mentally strong can endure.

A lifeguard is never off-duty just look at any veteran lifeguard he/she will not turn his/her back on the water, and will most likely have a pair of swim fins close at hand at any given time. Ask any lifeguard about the most critical rescue he/she has made and you might be surprised to learn that the best rescues made are often off-duty.

The Rookie:

Bruce is 16 years old and the star surfer at the local high school. His mom has been on his case and telling him it is time to get a job and start contributing to the family ethics. One fall day after surf practice Bruce noticed a flyer on the lifeguard tower for a summer job as a beach lifeguard. The flyer stated join the lifeguard service for an experience of a lifetime, starting pay $14.35. Bruce decided that if he is going to get a job it might as well be at the beach where he spends most of his time anyway. Bruce is a scrawny, but toned kid, with ocean knowledge well beyond his years, decides it's his new life's goal to train for the winter lifeguard tryouts, now only a few months away. When Bruce told his friends that he was going to tryout he was ridiculed for wanting to be one of those water jock beach cops, because the lifeguards always blackball them from surfing the better break. However, Bruce a leader, not a follower, decides to push on and and go for it anyway. The first few times Bruce jumped in the pool to attempt the 1000 yd. tryout swim he was humbled and couldn't even finish, but with much encouragement from his parents and his inner drive, he continued to train.

It's now 0630 on the big day and Bruce's mom has just woke her star child with breakfast in bed and dad is pumped. Bruce, accompanied by his parents, drives to the beach after breakfast to watch their son put all that training to the test. When they arrive at the beach Bruce is wondering what exactly he is getting himself into. The surf is the biggest it has been in years and it looks like the tryouts are still being held. The water is 55 degrees Fahrenheit and wetsuits are not allowed because of longtime tradition and the advantage of floatation. The shaky, nervous skin kid checks in among the thousands of other lifeguard hopefuls, gets his race number and walks down to the tide line where the lifeguards have drawn a starting line in the sand. While on the starting line Bruce can barely see the orange buoys that mark the course over the sea of lifeguard wannabs. He looks back at his parents and notices that half of the varsity swim and water polo team will be chasing this lifeguard dream as well. This makes Bruce even more scared than before and thoughts of throwing in the towel enter his mind, but he is able to compose himself just as the final competitors line up and listen to the experienced, seasoned, veteran guards explain the race course. A 1000 yd. swim in twenty minutes or less followed by a sprint run-swim-run. With only a few minutes to go, Bruce notices that the large surf has formed a longshore current that would make swimming straight out difficult if not impossible, so he relocates further down the beach in-order-to use the current to his advantage. Nobody follows Bruce's lead except the eyes of the veteran lifeguards.

The gun sounds and the vibrations of thousands of bare feet slapping the hard-pack sand can be felt by all those watching. Bruce storms into the water lifting his feet higher with every step to counteract the rapidly increasing water depth. When the water is too deep to high-step Bruce puts his head down in the frigid water and begins to navigate the massive surf. While taking a breath and looking for waves he manages to grab a quick glance at his competition, which is swept off course by the ripping longshore current. When Bruce reaches the outside he is dumbfounded to see that he is directly in front of the first buoy, and the rest of the pack is off-course a quarter mile down the beach. Bruce finished in first place with a time of 14:30 and his peers from the water polo team congratulate him and ask how he did it. He humbly tells them that he watched the surf for sometime before the start and noticed the ferocious longshore current and moved north 300 yds. just before the gun sounded. Bruce's proud father, who is also a seasoned well versed waterman and surfer, hands Bruce a towel and tells him how the swimmers and water polo kids would just swim right into oncoming waves and not even attempt to dive under them. The lifeguards who saw Bruce compensate for the longshore current took note and Bruce passed the interview process with flying colors.

Lifeguard Training Day:

The first day of Lifeguard training, Bruce had to complete the same distance swim twice once in the morning and once after lunch, but he was more confident this time around because of his ongoing persistent late night and early morning training though the winter and spring. As the ten days of non-stop lifeguard and basic first responder medical training continued, Bruce saw more than sixty percent of his peers leave in tears washed out or get sent home for lack of drive. Some where sent home for poor performance, bad test grades in the medical classes, and for some what seemed to be immaturity. On the final day, Bruce was called into the trailer to learn that he would be one of the lucky few sitting in a lifeguard tower that summer. Bruce was exhausted, excited, and nervous for what lie ahead, it was on this day that he realized that he was no longer a maturing grom, but now a well respected rookie lifeguard by friends and family.

July 4th, usually one of the heaviest days of the summer lifeguarding if the surf is up. After training, Bruce had been busy, high density towers for the first few weeks to break him in with some of the most veteran guards that would gear him up for a day like today. His first July 4th lifeguarding he would be shadowing some of the best lifeguard/watermen on the southern coast and he was on his own. He went to bed early the before so he could be to work early to surf and feel fresh for the busy day ahead.

While surfing he noticed a large hole directly in front of his assigned tower he had been around the ocean long enough to know that when the tide changed he would have his work cut out for him. Sure enough, when the tide changed that little innocent hole turned into the worst rip current on the beach. Standing on the deck of his tower Bruce began to grasp the great responsibility he was burdened with, he estimated that there must have been over eight hundred people in his water alone. Bruce was nervous to make his first rescues, but he remembered some of the phrases they shoved down his throat during lifeguard training, Be preventative! When in doubt GO! Spread the Red and Save the Baby! Bruce made over twenty five rescues that afternoon and eight medical aids, because Bruce had what it took and consistently proved himself he was eventually awarded the rookie of the year award.