Lifeguard Tryouts for San Clemente Marine Safety will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25. Registration begins at 7 a.m., and the tryouts start at 8 a.m. at the Marine Safety building located just north of the San Clemente Pier. For more information, call 949.361.8219.
By Eric Heinz
Each year, San Clemente Marine Safety officials look for the most physically fit and focused people for their lifeguard program. This year, tryouts to find those potential lifeguards are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Marine Safety Office just north of the Pier.
Blake Anderson, a San Clemente Marine Safety officer, recommends that people who want to try out should get as much experience swimming in the ocean as possible beforehand.
“You’re out there for eight or 10 hours sometimes, and you have to stay focused,” Anderson said. “Some of these kids are 16 or 17 years old, and there’s a great responsibility that’s put on them to be watching over thousands of lives, sometimes.”
Anthony Marin, 17, a Trabuco Hills High School student who was a lifeguard last summer, tried out for his first time last year. Marin was one of the few who made it through the training.
“It’s really physically demanding and requires speed, endurance, strength, skill and everything in between,” Marin said.
Marin said he used his passion for helping people as motivation to keep focused during the most rigorous parts of the training.
“One of the things new lifeguards have trouble with sometimes is what we call ‘pulling the trigger,’” Anderson said. “It’s when they’re up in the tower and they’re seeing the cues that someone might be in trouble, but they’re not sure. Sometimes they just need a little coaching to go out there and make the rescue.”
According to Marine Safety, the last time someone drowned at one of San Clemente beaches was in 2009, and prior to that it had been 30 years since the last fatal incident. Anderson said he attributes the relative success rate to rigorous training and sharing information between experienced and beginner lifeguards.
“We all look out for each other and help each other out and take on a sense of ownership of the beaches,” Anderson said.
Prospective lifeguards must swim to the end of the Pier and back in under 13 and a half minutes. After that, they go through a second physical test where they swim out, run down the beach and swim out and back.
“We really want to see that they can take on the responsibility of sitting in that tower,” Anderson said.
Those who make the cut are then put through an interview process. After that, Marine Safety accepts those who they will put through training. A final cut after that could take place if they’re overstaffed.
“It will batter you and beat you down, but the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it,” Marin said of the process. “Don’t give up.”
Some years, Marine Safety has hired up to 19 new recruits and other years have been as low as five, depending on who returns.
Lifeguards who make it to the training portion are compensated $10.50 an hour, and the ocean lifeguard position is paid $17.79 to $21.63.
Anderson said people who see anything suspicious or someone in trouble at the beach can call 949.361.8219 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or 911 outside of that time.
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