California Lifeguards - Rough and Ready to Save Lives

But don't be fooled by impostors!   Along the California Coast, you will meet the most skilled Lifeguards anywhere.  You can bet your life on it! 


The City of Huntington Beach acquired (and hired) its first lifeguard in 1912. Though the assignment was only a part time position, the idea of having someone protect swimmers gained popularity. While it took six years for the idea to catch on big time (2 lifeguards in 1918 recruited from the local resident pool), the City never looked back. 



Realizing that the beach was an attraction which would only grow in popularity, a professional lifeguard was hired in 1923. The work was challenging, the hours were long and time off was dear. Lifeguards typically worked 7-day weeks. Perhaps that is why another lifeguard up the coast in Redondo Beach, George Freeth, worked himself to death.


 The occupation of "life guarding" was coming into its own during the ensuing years and the City of Huntington Beach realized the importance of tending to one of its main attractions, the beach and ocean. Perhaps that was the reasoning used for hiring an official "Chief Lifeguard".  In 1928, Gene Belshe, a swimming champion took the reigns. 


He won hundreds of medals and the respect of lifeguards around the world for his acumen and strength. Protecting Huntington Beach swimmers required physical fitness. Known for its powerful waves and occasional rip tides which can pull even expert swimmers and surfers away from shore, a system was needed to maintain the safety of visitors who fell prey to the power of the ocean.


Belshe and Delbert "Bud" Higgins were the first full time lifeguards in 1931 who created a program to train other individuals. One of their young understudies was Herb Barthels, who went on to win the world's five mile swim record in 1932. Another youngster from Huntington Beach who worked as a part time guard was Wally O'Connor. He became a three time Olympic champ.


There are numerous successes born out of the Lifeguard Program.  Huntington Beach consistently hires and trains some of the most fit, best performing lifeguards in the nation. Annual tryouts in the Spring (March) bring out large numbers of local youth and young adults interested in the seasonal work of guarding Huntington Beach during the tourist season which runs from late March through September.  lifeguard competition was hosted in Huntington Beach in 1999 and though the Los Angeles Lifeguards team went on to win the nationals, Huntington Beach guards were proud of their performance which is measured not only in success of wining games, but in the bottom line, saving lives.

Deaths and drownings along the Huntington Beach coastline are rare, thanks to the skill and training of the local lifeguard teams and programs 70 years in the making. 


When visiting Huntington Beach, you may want to find a hotel near the beach. Many great Huntington Beach hotels offer beach close rooms and more affordable options on Beach Blvd.





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