An Ocean Lifeguard in the United States
By: Ondrej Svatos, Summer 2015 Work and Travel, Ambassador Scholar
The past two years, I’ve decided to spend my summer working and traveling throughout the United States. This summer, I have been working as an ocean lifeguard at a resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This has been my experience.
An Average Day
An average day for an ocean lifeguard starts with an early 6 a.m shower, followed by a healthy breakfast, and then it’s off to work. The first task of the day is registration in a warehouse at 7 a.m. All the important information such as times of high tide and low tide and temperature is on a board for us to read. Once the check-in is complete, all guards are transported to the beach.
Work on the beach begins by building chairs for customers to rent. It’s quite a workout, but it’s worth it because customers give tips, so this is a way lifeguards can earn some extra money. Regardless, the priority on the beach is monitoring water, which can be quite challenging, especially when there are hundreds of people both in the water and on the beach.
During the day, a lifeguard is allowed 3 breaks: two 10 minute breaks and a lunch break. Lifeguards are divided into three groups and take separate lunch breaks. This allows for guards to still be patrolling the beaches. If the lifeguard takes a break, it’s very important that his four neighboring lifeguards are on duty so the beach is always under maximal control.
At 4 p.m. it’s time for taking apart the rented chairs and umbrellas. At exactly at 5 p.m. it is 10-42, which is the code for the end of the shift. At this time, lifeguards must immediately take off their flag and leave the beach because they not responsible for people anymore.
Throughout the day, lifeguards communicate with each other via radio. For me personally, it wasn’t really easy for me to communicate, especially in the beginning. Hearing American English in the radio was a real challenge, but I‘ve gotten used to it very quickly. Ultimately, most communication is done with codes and signals. After the first week, radio communications became a natural thing to me.
Almost every day lifeguards have to go into the water. Some days it’s only few times and sometimes we have dozens of rescues a day. The most common form of rescue in the water is a child being on a body board that is taken by rip current. I’ve only had one rescue so far. However, a good lifeguard has none because they are consistent in preventing and whistle high-risk individuals out of the deep water.
Each lifeguard must go through a demanding training to be able to carry out all types of rescues both in water and on land. All lifeguards are also paramedics. Before arriving in the United States, everyone must go through fundamental American Red Cross course where they are taught all the basic rescue techniques. After arriving at the beach, they each must complete a lifeguard rookie school, which is a four-day course of practicing rescue in the water and on land. Every week, lifeguards must participate in surf school, where we review all rescue techniques and discuss events of the past week.
The work that I’m doing here is amazing. If you’re good swimmer, speak English well, love the ocean, and have a student status, then the next year do not hesitate to spend the summer in the United States as a lifeguard.
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