Beach lifeguards deserve respect


Courtesy of Buffy Howe

Watching Over: Junior Hannah DeSoto stands in her tower during a July day. DeSoto completed her rookie summer as a California State lifeguard. “It was the most enjoyable and rewarding summer I’ve had yet ,” DeSoto said. “I realized the importance of having someone watching the water at all times. I learned a lot from the people I worked with and especially the people on the beach.”

We’re high schoolers, we’re doing our job and we deserve respect. The position of a beach lifeguard is already a huge responsibility for 16 and 17 year olds. We need to be constantly vigilant and prepared for any situation we may face. But, when beachgoers fail to show us the respect we deserve, our jobs get exceedingly harder. Our focus may be diverted to unimportant situations, therefore making our beaches unsafe. Our coastal community needs to know the do’s and don’ts of the beach – from a lifeguards point of view.

Please don’t catcall or flirt with us.

It’s extremely inappropriate and disrespectful. Running down the beach and hearing, “GO BAYWATCH!” makes me, along with many lifeguards I know, very uncomfortable. Going into this job, I took into account the stereotypes of lifeguards. However, harassing anyone doing their job, especially young girls, is never acceptable. Our focus and vigilance becomes compromised when we are constantly fending off catcallers. Next time you think about flirting with the lifeguard, remember that they are at the beach to simply do their job. Don’t ask to take pictures with us. We need to be 100 percent focused on the water at all times. We are not commodities or gimmicks, we are here to save lives.

Please don’t pretend to drown.

We are trained to rescue anyone who appears to be in trouble, and it is a huge waste of our time and energy if you are joking around. Having a lifeguard on duty makes a beach patron’s chance of drowning 1 in 18 million according to the United States Lifesaving Association. On several occasions I have gone out on a rescue just to find out that the “victim” was just a kid messing around for attention. There are hundreds of people we need to watch and you could be taking our focus away from a real drowning victim.

Follow our beach rules.

Swim in the swimming zone and surf in the surf zone. According the the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents are responsible for claiming over 100 lives a year and account for 80 percent of ocean lifeguard rescues. I often see beach patrons of all ages walk right into the water in front of a sign that says “strong currents” or paddle out for a surf when there is a blackball flag posted. Understand that the signs and flags are placed along the beach to keep beachgoers safe, so take the time to read them and act accordingly. If you don’t know what they mean, just ask!

“A lot of people assume that since I’m a young girl, I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’m obviously here for a reason.”

— Senior Buffy Howe

Respect our authority

Many people think that becoming a lifeguard is easy and we’re all just irresponsible teenagers lounging in the tower. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Becoming a lifeguard is not easy. I had to sit through hours of lectures, test to get my certifications and complete countless physical training tests to get this job. If I go out to rescue you, swallow your pride and take the tube. That’s what I’m there to do.

Although we may be young, we play a critical role in your beach experience. All we ask is that you follow our rules and treat us with respect in order to make everyone’s life safer and more fun.