After the first 5 minutes of swimming, we still felt like our faces were going to fall off.
On the initial immersion, we felt as if we couldn’t breathe at all. We had to force ourselves to put our heads down in the water and relax enough to swim. Every time we opened our mouths to breathe the water felt like a freezing cold water fountain. Those with cavities definitely felt it!
By the time we finished the first lap, our bodies were starting to adjust. Hands, feet, and faces became numb and the pain receded to a dull ache. By the end of the next lap, done on rescue boards, our core temperature was smoking hot and generating enough extra heat to make it much less of an ordeal to enter for the third lap, which was another swim.
After six laps, three swims and three paddles, and 9 runs we had averaged about an hour and 20 minutes of training. Enough to know that your body will adapt to water in the low 50’s or high 40’s. We do this workout, dubbed the “Terrible Tuesday”, once a week during the winter months. Enough to not become afraid or distracted or disoriented when you have to jump in for a rescue.
Training like this during the winter is a welcome break from the frenzy of activity at the Beach Patrol leading up to the next season. Looking back over the past 3 months we’ve replaced all the downed or damaged signs on the beach, done a lengthy employee review, rebuilt all of our 26 lifeguard towers, ordered all vehicles and supplies, updated or training and policy manuals, trained and recertified staff members, revised our employee evaluation process, created an annual workflow calendar, revised our website, attended job fairs and other recruiting events, and helped in the design process of the new Tourist Ambassador Training program the Park Board has been creating. We’ve also researched and ordered almost all of our supplies for the year including vehicles, medical supplies, uniforms, rescue equipment, etc.
The nice thing about having the time to concentrate on all these internal projects is that once the beach crowd arrives we can focus almost completely on that. We have our hands so full in the “season” hiring, re-training, and supervising our 110 or so seasonal employees that it feels like there’s not room for much else. With 5-7 million visiting the beaches and so many seasonal workers it makes sense that we’d be stressed and running around like crazy to get ready for the coming storm!
With more tourists coming more of the year, and a focus on increasing tourism during the “shoulder seasons”, we are working to solidify our infrastructure and be prepared to expand to more of a year round operation if needed. As tourism becomes more and more important to our economy and livelihood, the best marketing we can possibly do is to make sure they feel safe and that the beaches and island are attractive.