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Junior lifeguards hit the beach for learning, practice

OCEANSIDE — More than 120 junior lifeguards hit Oceanside Harbor beach June 20 to start junior lifeguard summer camp. During each of the four four-week-long camp sessions, boys and girls ages 9 to 16 learn water safety skills, basic first aid and ocean ecology. Over the summer, a total of 600 kids participate.
“Kids are out of school and the biggest attraction is the beach,” Lifeguard Sgt. Nathan Turvey said. “Junior lifeguard teaches them to stay safe while they’re in the water. It’s a huge educator for kids.”
Boys and girls learn open water safety skills like how to swim in the ocean, how to effectively signal for help and how to recognize when a swimmer is in trouble. Older campers learn advanced rescue techniques that include basic first aid and CPR.
“Many kids use it as a stepping stone to become a lifeguard,” Turvey said. “It’s a great way to learn to use the natural resource and stay safe doing that.”
The junior lifeguard program has been running strong for over 20 years. A high percentage of beach lifeguards are former junior lifeguards.
“Eighty percent of our staff were junior lifeguards at one time,” said Mike Wagner, lifeguard instructor.
In addition to teaching safety skills, the summer program also keeps kids active. Each day is packed with fitness drills on the beach and rescue practices in the water. Daily workouts include running, swimming and paddle boarding. There are also educational games that encourage kids to have fun while they practice new skills.
“It’s a big workout but you still have so much fun,” Danielle McCauley, 9, of Oceanside, said.
Additional junior lifeguard activities include boat safety jumps, and field trips to La Jolla Cove and Wild Rivers.
“Parents love it,” Wagner said. “It keeps kids in great physical shape and has them coming home pretty tired.”
Kids often return to participate in camp year after year. “Kids build friendships and meet up with friends every year,” Turvey said.
To participate in junior lifeguard camp boys and girls must be able to swim 100-yards in three minutes, tread water for five minutes, and swim underwater. “We want to make sure they are capable to participate in what we have planned for them and will be able to enjoy it,” Turvey said.