Dec/Jan 2010 home page

  Run, Rookies, Run
Kaylee Emerson, age 17



Junior Lifeguards on a run. Photo Art Olson


Two summers ago I signed up for Rookie School with the Del Mar Lifeguards. The idea being that after four weeks of training, one could be offered a job as a Student Lifeguard. I showed up the first day and the first thing they asked us to do was to run from 17th Street to North Beach, or Dog Beach as most people call it. I knew it would be hard but I had no idea how hard it would actually be. For the next four weeks, every Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 5, I was on the beach with ten other kids and our supervisors, Mark Rathsam and Jon Edelbrock. It felt like we were doing nothing but swimming, running, and paddling.

Junior Guards learning C-Spine (cervical-spine)
photo www.delmarjg.com/pages/gallery

We were also learning loads of medical stuff. I personally liked the medical stuff way more, probably because I was the slowest kid at running, swimming, and paddling.
On the last Saturday of Rookie School, the lifeguards loaded us up in two separate IRB boats and drove us two miles out to sea , but told us it was four, and dropped us off to swim in. I had known this was coming and I was terrified! It took the lifeguards ten minutes to convince me to get out of the boat, I was so scared that a whale or a great white shark would just come along and have me for lunch. I finally jumped out of the boat and started my long, long swim. When I finally reached shore I was so hungry that I bit into a carne asada burrito even though I had been a vegetarian for two years. I guess being a student lifeguard you do a lot of scary stuff though.

Later on in my first summer we were doing cliff rescue, and Mark had noticed that I had been the most scared of rappelling down the cliff, so naturally I had to go first. Just before I went down the cliff Mark said, “I’m not going to lie to you, you could die.” Very reassuring.

Del Mar Lifeguards practicing helicopter rescues. 
Photo Dave Werth


Another Highlight of my Rookie summer as a lifeguard was the helicopter challenge. While the lifeguards watched over us, we were told to jump out of the hovering helicopter into the ocean. When I first heard of this, I thought they were joking. My second reaction was NO WAY! I was terrified yet again. But as I had learned earlier in the summer, the stuff that scared me the most was the “funnest .” So I said I’ll do it. It turned out to be really fun! I had to hold on to the outside of the helicopter until it had hovered out onto the ocean, and then just let go. Let go and fall into the ocean! Before we got onto the hellicopter they had been warning us about all the dangers we faced, even if we walked in the wrong place--go figure.

All and all, lifeguarding is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It’s fun and terrifying.


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