OCEANSIDE —Oceanside held the annual Junior Lifeguard Competition that brought together close to 800 kids from Oceanside, Carlsbad, Camp Pendleton and San Clemente for friendly competition on Tuesday.
Junior Lifeguard games at Harbor Beach started with a distance run. Next came a distance swim, paddle race, and run, swim, run challenge.
Kirra Press, 11, of Oceanside took age group second place in the run, swim, run. She said the biggest challenge was the crowd of swimmers in the water.
“There was a lot of people charging at once,” Kirra said.
Later in the day a capture the flag race was held, which narrowed down runners by reducing the number of “flags” each round.
Top finishers in the games win individual ribbons, and add to their city team’s score for overall winner. The best of the best go on to regional competition in Huntington Beach.
The annual games celebrate the end of the summer’s first training session. A second competition will be held in Carlsbad following the next four-week session.
During the Junior Lifeguard program kids learn about water safety, ocean ecology, and basic first aid.
Fitness is practiced daily in beach and water drills and games that get kids running, swimming and paddle boarding.
The program serves kids from age 9 to 17.
Kirra said she signed up for Junior Lifeguards because she loves being in the water and swimming. She added the program opened her eyes to the dangers of rip currents and how to safely swim out of them.
For those age 14 and older, there is the Junior Lifeguard Assistant program. This program trains teens on more advanced water safety, ocean ecology, first aid and rescue techniques. Teens are also paired up with a lifeguard to shadow and assist with daily equipment set up and observation.
Emma Snow, age 15, of Carlsbad, serves as a Junior Lifeguard Assistant. Emma helped direct junior lifeguards during the games.
Emma said she signed up to be a Junior Lifeguard Assistant because she likes the beach and is interested in marine biology. She said the program has instilled responsibility, and taught her how ocean hazards effect swimmers. She added it is a lot of fun working with the kids.
Lifeguard Lt. Emile Lagendijk said the Junior Lifeguard programs are a powerful education tool and stepping stone to a career as a lifeguard. An impressive 85 to 90 percent of city lifeguards were once junior lifeguards.
Scholarships from the Oceanside Junior Lifeguard Boosters club allowed 38 kids from low-income households to have swim lessons and four to participate in Junior Lifeguard programs this summer.