The Coast News Group
Taylor Watson,12, of Carlsbad, dives in to seize a flag. Behind her Jayde Scirolia, 12, of Oceanside. The Junior Lifeguard Program trains 9 to 17-year olds in water safety, rescue, and physical endurance. Photo by Promise Yee

Junior Lifeguard competition hits sand and sea

OCEANSIDE — More than 700 junior lifeguards from Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas and San Clemente ended their summer training with a city versus city competition July 8. 

The Oceanside junior lifeguards have won the annual competition for the last three years and participants are aware of that, adding incentive to Oceanside youth to hold the title and inspiring other cities to claim it.

“We’re pretty competitive,” Oceanside Lifeguard Sgt. Mason Turvey said. “We’ve done well.”

Turvey said Oceanside has consistently won the competition in recent years, but over the 20-plus years the competition has been held there has been an even split of wins between Oceanside and closest geographic rival Carlsbad.

Junior lifeguards ages 9 to 17 compete against same age competitors in a variety of running and swimming races.

One popular competition is steal the flag. Racers lay flat on their stomachs until a rope stretched across the lineup is lifted, then they jump to their feet, turn toward the flags and seize one of them. There are fewer flags than there are competitors. Those who do not secure a flag are eliminated until one winner is left.

Another sand competition is group relay races in which a baton is handed off between team members.

The races test speed and strength. A swim relay, fitness paddle and relay race from Harbor Beach to the south jetty are also part of the competition.

Points are gained for the top finalists in each race. The city team with the most points at the end of the day is the annual winner.

The day of fun and competition is the culmination of weeks of junior lifeguard training. Boys and girls learn ocean safety and rescue techniques, and improve running, swimming and surfing skills.

To enter the Junior Lifeguard Program youth must be able to complete a 100-yard swim in three minutes, swim underwater, and tread water for five minutes.

“The program started to introduce kids to the ocean and get these kids down to beach,” Turvey said. “They’re educated on ocean safety and learn how to recognize rip currents. They need to be aware of potential dangers.”

“The beach is a huge asset,” he added. “People should enjoy it by using it safely.”

Physically boys and girls are pushed to build running and swimming endurance.

“Fun is first and foremost,” Turvey said. “They are introduced to lifeguarding. Skills they are introduced to progress as they get older.”

One advanced drill is known as a jetty jump. Junior lifeguards are instructed on how to safely jump from a moving boat. Older junior lifeguards master the jetty jump and swim into shore.

At age 14 trained junior lifeguards can work as lifeguard assistants. They shadow a lifeguard during the day to get the feel of the job. Assistants are limited to setting up equipment and observing. They cannot perform life-saving operations until they become lifeguards.

“Eighty percent of our lifeguards were junior lifeguards,” Turvey said.

Oceanside holds junior lifeguard training sessions two times during the summer. The second set of sessions begins July 15 and July 16 and culminates with a junior lifeguard competition in Carlsbad in August.