That day, lifeguard hopefuls, in a bootcamp-style setting, got the chance to shadow Junior Lifeguard interns for a day of mentorship and learning.
The Junior Lifeguard Program teaches youth ages 7 to 17 important life and safety skills, including water-rescue techniques, first aid and CPR.
It was a dress rehearsal for Junior Lifeguard Internship Program participants, many of whom will go on to become seasonal and professional lifeguards with San Diego Fire Department or other agencies.
Starting out at Santa Clara Recreation Center, the day combined fun, camaraderie and hard work for 26 teen junior lifeguard interns. This year’s intern field, for the first time, was more female than male, 19 women and seven men.
“We like to empower these females and give them the confidence that they really can do this job,” said San Diego Junior Lifeguard intern coordinator Lauren Leisk.
“We give them individualized lifeguard training on rescue swimming and first aid, the things they’re going to need when they try out to become lifeguards.”
Added Leisk, “We go over to the beach and train them on how to rescue someone with their fins and rescue boards, train them on water observation, and on how to properly package someone on a backboard, how to splint someone off with a broken arm.”
Interns are hired and paid to support City lifeguard staff during the program’s two, four-week summer aquatic education sessions.
Aug. 15 was especially significant for at least one of this year’s female interns, Ava Smith from Northern California. She failed on her first attempt at becoming a Junior Lifeguard intern, but returned for a second try and succeeded.
“It’s my dream job,” said Smith, adding she was “absolutely devastated,” after falling short the first time.
Asked why she wants to be a lifeguard, Smith answered: “Being able to make a difference and save people’s lives. Being an intern is kind of a sneak peak at that.”
Smith ran 12 miles and swam four miles that day. Other program interns had run six miles and swam two.
“It’s not fun in the moment when you’re doing push ups or running a mile, but when you look back at it, you have such fond memories,” Smith said.
During the day, lifeguard interns ran relay races on the beach. They also swam out in pairs to marked ocean buoys, with one swimmer “rescuing” the other and bringing them ashore.
“The Junior Lifeguard Program is a unique learning opportunity for young men and women in San Diego, and our interns are an expression of that,” said Lifeguard chief James Gartland. “Junior lifeguards look up to interns and find inspiration in knowing that hard work and dedication will often yield personal growth and leadership roles.”
The Junior Lifeguard Program is funded by the City of San Diego with support from the Prevent Drowning Foundation of San Diego.