The group picked their way gingerly across the higher rocks, which were only covered in white, foamy water intermittently. One person, older and moving confidently up and down the rocks, leapt from a higher rock, tucking his rescue tube firmly against his body in midflight, and landed smoothly on top of one of the larger waves. He took a couple of strokes, rolled to the side, and smoothly slid swim fins on. Swimming back to the rocks at an angle against the rip current, he motioned for the first of the lifeguard candidates to follow, as he rose and fell with the swell.
The first brave soul moved towards the rock the instructor had jumped from. Holding her rescue tube and excess strap in the hand that was opposite from the direction the waves came from she ensured the waves wouldn’t smack the tube into her and cause her to slide across the barnacle covered rocks. Keeping her center of gravity low, but her butt off the rocks, she kept her balance while letting the energy of the smaller waves pass beneath her. She moved lower quickly before a larger wave could knock her off her feet. You could see her force herself to focus and tune out the voice telling her all the ways this could go bad. A wave approached. She knew at this point she had no choice. Once you’re low enough to jump, a decent sized wave will scrape you across the rocks if you freeze. She didn’t. She jumped a little high and landed too close to the jump point. She didn’t get the tube flat against her body, causing her hands to sink too low on impact. But her head was just right- tilted back with her face forward. She timed the jump a little early and landed in the whitewater. But overall, it was a pretty good first jump. And practicing in decent sized surf, although it looks scary, has a much greater margin of error.
Each year, the Galveston Island Beach Patrol trains Lifeguard Candidates, or “Rookies”, in a rigorous 100 hour Lifeguard Training Academy. The Academy includes United States Lifesaving Association Open Water accreditation, Red Cross Emergency Responder certification, tourist ambassador training, leadership, resilience, and intercultural competency. Lifesaving skills open water swimming techniques are first learned in a pool environment and perfected in the open water of the Gulf of Mexico.
Lifeguard candidates will be paid a training wage for the time they spend on the training course. Upon successful completion of the Lifeguard Academy, candidates will be promoted to Lifeguard 1 status and will be eligible to work for Galveston Island Beach Patrol at up to $20 per hour. More importantly they’ll return home each day knowing they prevented accidents and/or saved a life.
Tomorrow (Saturday) at 9am we’ll be holding lifeguard tryouts at the UTMB Fieldhouse. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the team and family, please check our website for details and show up at 9. We need you!