I’m a full time ocean lifeguard in San Diego
How would you describe what you do?
Basically it is helping people in need, giving them band-aids, CPR, first aid, water rescue, river rescue, all sorts of stuff.
We have a lot of people on the water here in San Diego so we do a lot of ocean water rescue. We also have a river rescue team when rivers flood. We have dive rescue teams, so we can go straight into the water and touch the bottom. We do a lot of boating rescues also where we put out fires if needed.
What is a typical workweek like for you as a lifeguard?
A typical week is never the same. It’s typically very active, we do a lot of in-house training, non-stop duty calls, and rescues etc. But it really depends on the weather, how the water is, and the time of year.
How did you get started?
For me it was straight out of high school and during college it was a part time job. I was working here in the summers and then would go back to college during the fall and winters. This is now my 11th full year.
What do you like about what you do?
I like helping the public, whether it is answering a question or saving a life. Plus, I also like that I’m on the beach in flip-flops and a t-shirt.
What do you dislike?
Maybe the water getting cold in the winter, that is about it. The water gets real cold.
How do you make money or how are you compensated?
We are hourly employees, so we work a forty-hour workweek and we get paid based on that.
How much money do you make as a lifeguard?
For first timers, they start at about $15 dollars an hour. Full time, they start at about $22 dollars an hour.
How much did you make starting out as a lifeguard in this career?
When I first started 11 years ago I was only making $10 an hour.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
Basically you just need a high school diploma or a GED. Then to become an actual lifeguard you need lifeguard training. So they hire you and put you in lifeguard school and also about forty hours worth of first aid class.
What is the most challenging?
Just trying to stay fit and healthy. It can be pretty dangerous around the cliffs in the water, so a lot of people get hurt, we are prone to injuries, so it’s challenging to stay in shape and stay healthy.
What is most rewarding?
When you get a thank you from a visitor. Or when you save someone’s life and get a ‘thank you’ or they give you a hug. That feels pretty good.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Train hard, you’ve got to be in pretty great shape, it is a demanding job, and just enjoy helping other people, that is what the job is about.
How much time off do you get/take?
We work five or six days a week depending on what schedule you are on. You tend to work weekends so you are off Mondays and Tuesdays most of the time. When you sign up to do this job you know you are not going to have normal weekends like everyone else.
Okay so what is a common misconception that people have about what you do?
Maybe that show Baywatch. I’m still trying to live that down.
What are your goals or dreams for the future?
Well working here is the dream. But I want to continue doing my best to make sure that nobody drowns, and just keep helping people out.