Photos and story by Mitch Ridder
A total of 64 men and women who want a job as a Laguna Beach lifeguard tried out last Saturday at Main Beach in choppy seas of 52 degrees.
The tryout consists of three physical events; a 1,000-meter swim in under 20 minutes; two run-swim-run sequences of 400 yards on the sand and 200 yards in the ocean; followed by 200-yard sprints. The timed finishing order of these three combined events determines those accepted into training.
Of the original group, who are identified by a number written on their shoulders and swim cap, 46 were actually accepted into training; 34 will be training for rookie lifeguard, the remaining 12 will be training for regular seasonal ocean lifeguards, level 1.
Rookie lifeguards primarily work on Main Beach where they can be easily trained and supervised. Because of Laguna’s unique beach topography of smaller coves isolated by rock points, rookie lifeguards have to be thoroughly trained before they can work an outside beach on their own because in emergency situations backup might be minutes away. Rookie lifeguards also serve as relief or break guards for the seasonal lifeguards, staffing the rest of the city’s beaches.
Training consists of 100 hours over five consecutive weekends, which begins March 26-27. Those successfully completing the training become advanced first responders and are certified in CPR by the American Heart Association as well as by the United States Lifesaving Association. The actual training breaks down into spending 50 hours on emergency first-aid and CPR and 50 hours consisting of physical swims, runs, surf and rip current rescue training, rock rescues and training, diving and boating related emergencies, learning city, state and federal laws pertaining to the beach, as well as reacting in simulated emergency situations, where the trainees put to use what they have been taught.
Of those who successfully complete training, they will be competing on an average for about 10-20 job openings.
Ridder, a Laguna Beach artist, is also a longtime lifeguard.