Rescues in the surf zone

The eldest Kelly boy is feeling restless and impoverished. He’s always been a strong swimmer, so I suggested he look into lifeguarding this summer.

Nicole Bogdanoff, aquatics director at the La Jolla YMCA (858-453-3483; lajolla.ymca.org), told me, “We offer a Red Cross lifeguard training class for $150 and a YMCA lifeguard training class for $120, held May through July. You have to come in to register. With the Red Cross class, you also receive Title 22, which is first aid for safety personnel, people like EMTs and firefighters. It’s more extensive than regular first aid. With the Red Cross training, you can get a job at any pool. With the YMCA training, you can work at a YMCA, but you must also get your Title 22 training within six months of being hired.

You must be at least 15 for the Red Cross class and 16 for the YMCA. “Also, both classes require a prerequisite course [$75] to ensure that you are a strong enough swimmer to make it through the class. On the first night of Red Cross training, for example, you are required to swim 300 yards continuously using a combination of breaststroke and front crawl. You have to tread water for two minutes using only your legs. You have to dive and retrieve a ten-pound brick, then swim 20 yards back to your starting point with the brick.” (See website for complete list of requirements.)

In the class, “You learn to recognize different types of drowning victims and also how to care for them. You learn to recognize a spinal injury victim in the pool and how to get them on a backboard. You receive CPR training and training on the automated external defribrillator. You learn how to administer oxygen. There’s also an online portion that you can complete at your own pace. The whole course takes about 38 hours, and at the end, there’s both a written and physical exam.”

The South Bay YMCA in Chula Vista (619-421-9622, southbay.ymca.org) also offers a class May 17–20 (YMCA certification). Cost is $200 for members, $250 for non-members. Same prerequisites as La Jolla; 16 years old, minimum. South Bay Y price includes materials, La Jolla Y requires purchase of materials from the Red Cross offices in Tierrasanta (858-309-1200, redcross.org): the Lifeguard Participants Manual ($32), the CPR rescue mask ($8.75), and the first-aid bandage training kit ($1.75).

Wave House Athletic Club (wavehouseathleticclub.com; 858-228-9334) offers Red Cross lifeguard training classes through the summer. Employee Lauren gave me details. “All materials are included — the manual, the CPR rescue mask, etc. Cost is $185 for a three-day class that runs 8 a.m.–4 p.m. If you want the Title 22 training, the total is $225, plus an extra day of class, 9 a.m.–4p.m. You must be at least 15; check our website for other prerequisites.”

What do you know — eldest son asked about working at the beach. Jon Vipond, lifeguard sergeant for the City of San Diego, said, “We do our initial lifeguard training through Miramar College’s Intro to Open Water Lifeguarding ($157, plus book and supplies). It’s an 80-hour regional academy; most of the county agencies hire their lifeguards from there. Class runs ten hours a day on Saturday and Sunday for four weeks; the next one runs May 11–June 2. It’s a competitive academy, and it requires physical conditioning: you must be able to swim 500 meters in open water in ten minutes or less. They also do run-swim-runs, where they’ll be going continuously for up to 40 minutes. It’s pretty grueling. The main difference between ocean and pool lifeguarding is that when you’re on the ocean, you need to know how to make rescues in the surf zone. You also learn the topography of ocean bottom; there are sudden dropoffs that can make it dangerous. We guard swim zones in Mission Bay; people think it’s safer there, but there are dropoffs from three feet to six feet....

“You can start attending at 16,” continued Vipond, “but the city won’t hire you until you’re 18. Pay ranges from $16.23 to $19.50 per hour. You’ll also need medical training; Miramar offers Emergency Medical Care of the Sick and Injured [$244 for tuition, supplies, and books].” Check with the school for the dates of the next session.

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