OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Junior Lifeguards faced off against Carlsbad, Camp Pendleton, and San Clemente Junior Lifeguard teams in a fun day of competition on July 7.
In the water teams competed in swimming and paddling relays.
Water events included the relay paddle race, in which competitors paddled Boogie Boards to a buoy and back.
On the sand, running relays took place.
“Its a fun day to compete against other kids,” Oceanside Lifeguard Sgt. Mason Turvey said.
“There are about 800 kids from all the different agencies. It’s a large group of kids and parents with plenty of people in the water.”
Sand competition included a game of beach flags in which runners must capture a diminishing number of flags. Those who fail to capture a flag are eliminated until one flag and one runner are left.
“It’s competitive and fun to watch,” Turvey said.
Top finishers in each competition are awarded points. The junior lifeguard team with the most points at the end of the day claims the overall win.
Individuals who achieve top finishes are also recognized. The best of the best go on to the junior lifeguard regional competition in Huntington Beach.
The day allows junior lifeguards to bond and show off skills they learned during the four-week junior lifeguard program.
The program teaches boys and girls ages 9 through 17 about ocean awareness, ecology, and basic first aid.
There is also lots of running, swimming, surfing and beach games.
“You’re always paddling and surfing, that’s every day,” Sean Mcquerry, age 12, Carlsbad Junior Lifeguard, said.
Water safety is the number one lesson.
“They have a specific, good understanding of the ocean that ensures kids are safe,” Turvey said.
Many boys and girls continue through the junior lifeguard program and progressively learn more advanced water safety and lifesaving skills. Lessons include tower guarding, rescue techniques, boat rescues, first aid and CPR.
“They get more comfortable around the ocean,” Carlos Alfaro, San Clemente lifeguard said. “They become better watermen and waterwomen.”
Sean Mcquerry has participated in the junior lifeguard program for four years. He said each year builds upon previous skills learned.
“You get a better concept of it,” he said.
Shayna Dumont, 11, had been a Carlsbad Junior Lifeguard for two years. She said she has gained confidence to take on new challenges in the water.
She was introduced to the walk on water drill last year. The balance and agility drill challenges junior lifeguards to walk across surfboards that are lined up end to end in the water.
“Last year I was too afraid to do it,” she said. “This year I did it.”
Advanced challenges include a one-mile swim around the Oceanside Pier, and run-swim-run drills.
“They’re preparing us to be lifeguards,” Bridget Donnelly, age 15, Oceanside Junior Lifeguard, said.
At age 14 junior lifeguards have the opportunity to train as lifeguard assistants. They are paired with a lifeguard, help set up equipment, and get a day-to-day feel for the job.
A high percentage of junior lifeguards later go on to become Oceanside lifeguards or police officers.
“Eighty percent of our lifeguards were junior lifeguards,” Turvey said.
Turvey has served as a lifeguard for 10 years and overseen the junior lifeguard program for four years. He got his start in junior lifeguards.