You know summer has arrived in the South Bay when you look out at the beach in the morning and somewhere among the marine layer, you spot groups of kids sprinting in the sand, swimming in the water and giving it their all. This is how more than 2,500 local kids-ages 9 to 17-plan to spend their summer vacation: striving, competing and enduring as part of the Junior Lifeguard Program.
The tradition of the Junior Lifeguard Program in Los Angeles County dates back to 1938. "The program at that point was a fairly loose organization, meeting the needs of beach lifeguarding when many of the young men had gone off to war," says ocean lifeguard specialist Daniel Murphy, who is the director of community services and youth programs for the LA County Fire Department. Formally, the program took root on the South Bay beaches in the summer of 1961.
"The program teaches kids beach and ocean safety, first aid, CPR, lifesaving skills and surf racing," says Murphy. These kids are doing anything but sitting around for the summer. Every day the junior guards swim, and on most days they surf, paddle, play games and run. Don't forget lots of friendly competitions and some surf and skin diving trips.
You'll find the junior guards peppered around all the beaches: in El Segundo, at the jetty south of Grand Avenue; in Manhattan Beach, at Marine Street; in Hermosa Beach, at 16th Street and the Tim Kelly tower; in Redondo Beach, at Avenue A; at Torrance Beach; and at Cabrillo Beach.
"For many junior lifeguards, this will be something fun that they do for a couple of summers. They will learn a lot and be much safer at the beach," says Murphy. Many other kids go on to become lifeguards. Murphy himself was a junior guard in the 1980s on Torrance Beach.
And the hard work does not go unnoticed. "I have known junior lifeguards who have saved the lives of friends and family members with the skills that they learned in this program," Murphy adds.