Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lifeguards: hardworking heroes at the mercy of the ocean's whim

My regular contributions to this blog may become a bit sketchy for the next few weeks, so feel free to peruse through the archives.  There are over 900 posts and it's interesting to see the chronological developments in certain ocean conservation issues like shark advocacy.

The reason for my sketchiness is that I will be working on the second season of the Weather Channel's series, Lifeguard!  It's an interesting reality series that highlights the many activities of Southern California's dedicated crew of lifeguards.  We often think of lifeguards as some young and buff stud perched high in a tower, but while that certainly is a component of their responsibilities, they also can get involved aerial rescues, mountaineering rescues, dive search & recovery, and much more.

And the ocean can often dictate just how busy the lifeguards can be on any given day.  I was shooting on July 3rd and 4th at Torrey Pines Beach, near San Diego.  This is a thin strip of a beach, popular with families but also notorious for its many rip currents.  Some of these currents are transient and, because of a nearby river that flows into the sea there, a couple are considered "permanent rips."  Given a hot, crowded day at this beach, and the lifeguards can find themselves with a pretty full day between fishing out exhausted swimmers who don't know how to deal with a rip current, plucking stranded climbers or crashed hang gliders off the cliffs at the adjacent Torrey Pines bluffs, or defusing potential fights from frazzled beach goers arguing over the last available parking space. (The Torrey Pines lifeguards are members of the California State Parks Service and can be licensed and armed peace officers.)

However, nature can be full of surprises and, as it turned out, the 4th of July was a fairly calm and uneventful day due to a heavy and cold marine overcast that kept most people out of the water and close to the BBQs for a hot hamburger or chili dog.  As one of the lifeguards was telling us, their day can be a fairly easy one or a grueling nightmare, depending on the fickle mood of the ocean and the sky.  But even on an easy day, the regular workday of a lifeguard would leave most of us beat up and weary.  The Lifeguard: another unsung hero in the civil servant corp.

So, in the meantime, I'll be posting on my days off and I hope you keep checking in.  I appreciate the support of all the readers I have gained over the past few years.  Hopefully, we're all making a difference in preserving and protecting the oceans.  

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