I took my usual morning walk this week and as I headed down Bayside Drive I was suddenly aware of a coming stampede. Behind me, I could hear a small army of excited young voices, a cadre of bike bells and the clamor that only occurs up and down streets all over town this time each year.
I knew right then and there, if I had any brains in my head at all, I should move to the far right of the sidewalk and get out of the way.
Yes, it’s Junior Lifeguard time again here in Newport Beach.
Between June 25 and Aug. 14, more than 1,200 kids ages 9 to 15 participate in the Junior Lifeguard program devoted to promoting ocean safety.
Armed with the official Junior Lifeguard backpack, t-shirt, sweatshirt, hat, and surf cap, each child is also required to bring fins, towel, snack, drink, rash guard, notebook, and sunscreen. Strict rules apply to this uniform, which is to be worn only when the kids are in session. And cell phones are prohibited at all times during class.
As the sea of red whooshed by me, I had to smile as a few kids actually said “thank you” and “excuse me” as they peddled hard to keep up with those ahead in the pack.
According to the official 2012 Junior Lifeguard Family Handbook, the program consists of 50 percent ocean safety, 15 percent physical development, 15 percent personal development, 10 percent emergency response skills and 10 percent competition.
Since it doesn’t include the aforementioned enthusiastic bike trip to and from the beach, I am guessing the exercise percentage is probably slightly higher.
Because our coastal lifestyle requires that all children learn and understand the significance of water safety, this program is one of vital import. How to properly prevent injury, respond correctly in emergency situations, and exhibit good sportsmanship are the primary goals of the program.
The Junior Lifeguards is part of the Marine Operations Division of the Newport Beach Fire Department, and the program staff for this season is being lead by Lifeguard Captain Mike Halphide and Lifeguard Supervisor George Leeper. The Junior Lifeguards receive the best possible instruction from 40 instructors and four assistant instructors, each certified as an Ocean Lifeguard for Newport Beach.
All Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards graduate at the end of the program with a specific rank based on completion of the age-division requirements, and are registered with the United States Surf Lifesaving Association (USLA). A great source of pride for many of the participants comes when they receive their USLA membership card, stickers, and the American Lifeguard magazine.
So if your out and about and happen to see a pack of kids all riding like mad to get to their Junior Lifeguard class, give them a thumbs up or a “go Newport JLs!” You never know, one day they might just save your or a loved on’es life.