Lifeguarding For Dummies
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Everyone, in some way, shape, or form, is familiar with lifeguards. If you’ve been to a local pool or beach or have watched any TV scene of a public swimming area, you’ve probably seen lifeguards perched up on their chairs keeping a close eye on the swimmers beneath them.

While some might perceive lifeguarding as just another summer job dominated by teenagers trying to make an extra buck, the truth is that this career is far more than that. Across the various swimming facilities — the pool, waterpark, beachfront, and ocean — lifeguards are equipped with the skills to act on a moment’s notice and respond to struggling swimmers and all types of emergencies.

The benefits of lifeguarding

Here are just some of the many benefits of lifeguarding:

  • Lifelong skills that are applicable everywhere:
    • Increased self confidence
    • Communication skills
    • Leadership qualities
    • Teamwork
    • The ability to problem solve
    • Stress management
  • CPR/AED and first aid training. You can save someone’s life with the skills you learn on this job. It may not even be at work, but in a public setting or a family member or friend.
  • Get paid to go to the beach, pool, lake or waterpark! When you are told to report to work, this is where you are going. Your views of the sunset (if not working indoors) will be way better than your friends’ who are working typical 9-to-5s at their desks!
  • Make friendships for life. It is not uncommon to make lifelong friends on the job. Due to the close-knit nature of the work that lifeguards perform, coupled with trainings and lots of teamwork, you will quickly find yourself developing friendships that last a lifetime. These may be the people in your wedding party and at children’s first birthday. Crazy as it sounds, you might even meet your future spouse on the job.
  • Serve the general public. Lifeguards argue that there are only a handful of other jobs as rewarding as theirs. It might take a few rescues for it to click, but you are saving lives in this job! Lifeguarding allows you to give back to your community and serve the public. Not to mention that people look up to you…literally!

Required lifeguarding skills

Know before you go! Check out this future lifeguard’s brief questionnaire. You should answer yes to most of these questions now, or be willing and in the process of training to be able to meet these requirements:

  • Can you swim 100 yards without stopping, or are you willing to train to get there? How fast can you swim?
  • How about 500 yards?
  • Are you comfortable swimming in open water?
  • Are you comfortable treading water for long periods of time?
  • Can you go underwater without having to pinch your nose?
  • Can you run a full lap around a track without stopping?
  • Can you run a mile?
  • Are you certified in CPR and AED?
  • Are you certified in First Aid?
  • Have you taken a lifeguarding training class?
  • Do you feel prepared to pass the written lifeguarding exam?
  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, have you checked the vision requirements for the job you are seeking?

Things to consider before a job in lifesaving

Lifeguarding isn’t for everyone. If you’re serious about lifeguarding, make sure you can answer yes to most if not all of these questions:

  • Are you mature enough to handle life and death decisions?
  • Do you thrive on helping others?
  • Do you consider yourself a leader?
  • Are you a people person?
  • Do you work well with others?
  • Are you able to make quick but conscious decisions?
  • Are you willing to run in, when everyone else is running out?

The leading cause of drownings worldwide: Rip currents

As an ocean lifeguard, it is crucial that you have good grasp of its mechanisms and how to properly escape a rip current. In order for your ocean rescues to be successful and efficient, you need to understand the components of a rip current.

No one rip current is the same. Learning to read the water and make important decisions as to how, where, and when to enter all play key roles. As the professional ocean lifeguard, you are expected to be the expert and be able to explain to your everyday recreational swimmer at the bare minimum how to recognize a rip and what to do if you think or believe you are caught in one.

As crashing waves move toward the shore, all that extra water must make its way back into the ocean. It feeds back into the deepest part of the ocean floor, creating a section of rushing water that flows out toward the sea. This pulling water is what we know as a rip current.

It is important to know that rip currents do not pull swimmers down under the water. They simply pull swimmers out to sea. It is primarily body mechanics combined with fatigue that causes a swimmer to sink!

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Cary Epstein is the founder and owner of Epi+Center Rescue, a professional lifeguarding service that offers water safety consultation and lifeguard staffing. In 2017, he was named “Lifeguard of the Year” in all of New York State. Cameron DeGuzman works in clinical research at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and has been a Jones Beach Ocean Lifeguard since 2016.

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