Night Swim Bonding

Ultimately, it’s all about relationships.

Wednesday evening at 5pm on the west seawall 75 lifeguards will dive into the surf and swim. They’ll make their way to the east. At some point they’ll get out and run through a series of obstacle stations. It might be a mud crawl or a rope climb. They may do calisthenics, answer questions about lifesaving, jump off rock groins, perform mock rescues, paddle rescue boards, or swim around the Pleasure Pier.

There will be a point somewhere where each rookie will doubt his/her ability to finish. There will be a point where they question their decision to join the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. They will seriously wonder if being part of the team is worth the pain. The last of the guards will trickle in at Stewart Beach up to 3 hours after starting to be welcomed by a crowd of fellow lifeguards, parents, friends, community supporters, and bystanders who get sucked into the event and follow them by car or bike to the finish line. The crowd will be truly glad that each and every one finishes. After a welcome ceremony the whole group relaxes and tells stories at a pizza party.

This grueling marathon is the final physical challenge for the Lifeguard Candidates. But it’s much more. For over 20 years this has been a way to show the candidates that they’re capable of so much more than they thought and that there’s no challenge they can’t handle. The most grueling rescue pales in comparison to this event. It’s also a way for returning guards to measure their physical condition and to compare themselves to the new group. Most importantly, it’s a way to bond.

There’s an intangible element to getting over 100 diverse, often independent personalities to work together seamlessly. The training and the protocols and the chain of command get us half way there, but each individual link having a deep understanding that he/she is part of the chain is key. No one goes beyond what they thought were their physical, mental, or psychological limits for money or because they have a boss who tells them to do something. It has to be a selfless act for the greater good of a group. Just like the military has to break cadets down and rebuild them, true lifeguards have to go through some pain and suffering to know in their hearts that they need the others and the others need them. Having all the staff go through this event has become a cornerstone of our training program and a way to build a Gestalt where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Our whole training program is designed to efficiently get all beach visitors home safely, but there’s a wonderful byproduct. Friendships forged in this type of environment have a depth and strength that lasts a lifetime. The most diverse people bond when they share pain and a common purpose.

Come cheer them on!

Ultimately, it’s all about relationships.