An initial qualifier, the lifeguard tryout required applicants to complete a 500-meter swim in under 10 minutes.
“For a lifeguard, these tryouts are the beginning of your journey,” said San Diego Lifeguard spokesman Rick Strobel, noting passing that test qualifies an applicant to be interviewed to be among as many as 55 new seasonal lifeguards for summer 2020.
“The standard that we set, 500 meters in under 10 minutes, is what is required by the U.S Lifesaving Association,” said Strobel, adding achieving that benchmark, though easy for a competitive swimmer, is harder for nearly everyone else requiring them to train and prepare beforehand.
What are lifeguards looking for in applicants?
“Your swimming ability but we also check your judgment, training and educational experience,” answered Strobel, who noted those who pass both the 500-meter swim test and the job interview afterward get to move on to the next step, 80 hours of lifeguard academy training.
“That’s both training in the classroom and in the field testing lifesaving techniques and their physical proficiency at a high level where you have to do a mile run and swim a mile,” said Strobel.
“Lifeguarding in San Diego isn’t just sun and sandy beaches,” said Lifeguard Chief James Gartland. “Lifeguards must be physically and mentally ready to respond to an emergency at any time. For those who can meet the demands of the job and become a lifeguard, I guarantee they will never have a more rewarding or unique job experience.”
Ava Smith from Northern California, who recently went through the Junior Lifeguard Program teaching youth ages 7 to 17 life and safety skills including water-rescue techniques, first aid, and CPR, was exultant. She passed the Sept. 26 swim test and was awaiting her interview that very day.
“I did it 8 minutes, 40 seconds,” said Smith of her qualifying swim time.
Smith wants to be a lifeguard because “it offers the ability to not only hands-on save lives, but also to just overall affect how people view and interact with the ocean,” she said. “You’re an ambassador for the ocean teaching about it and ensuring the safety of people.”
Asked if she would recommend undergoing the trials necessary to become a lifeguard, Smith replied, “It’s a job worth pursuing.”
Smith offered this advice. “The best way to pursue it is to become a junior lifeguard or get a job as a pool lifeguard while learning as much as you can about the ocean.”
With more than 40 miles of oceanfront and bay shoreline to patrol throughout the city, SDFD lifeguards help keep an average of 17 million visitors safe and conduct an estimated 7,000 rescues at local beaches each year.
Additionally, lifeguards manage cliff, scuba, and swift water rescues, enforce boating safety regulations and respond to emergencies involving seafaring vessels and other watercraft.