By: Seaman Carlos Vazquez II, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West.
Commencing their days at about 8:45 a.m., the lifeguards at Naval Air Station North Island’s Breaker Beach begin by putting on their uniforms, or “reds”. They prepare their personal watercrafts and bright red trucks equipped with all the tools and supplies needed to save a life. They then check their medical supplies and oxygen tanks in case an emergency situation or rescue was to occur.
The lifeguards’ common enemy is rip tides, and the treacherous water hazards are no stranger to the coastal lines and shores of the ocean.
“The number one danger is definitely rip currents,” said Eddie Jones, an ocean lifeguard. “Rip currents are when the waves come in and they need to come out somehow. Sometimes the water will just feed to one spot and it will carry the water out towards the ocean. If you’re not a strong swimmer, or panic, you can find yourself in trouble.”
In his 18 months’ experience, Jones has encountered an estimated 50 incidents, including minor medical aid accidents.
“The ocean is completely unpredictable,” said Stan Searfus, who has been an ocean lifeguard since 1983. “Putting your kids in front of the lifeguard stands is the super safe way to enjoy the beach.”
Lifeguards encourage all visitors to ask them about the severity of the rip tides and strength of the currents. They also raise three different color flags to warn of the ocean’s conditions.
“The best thing to do is to try to set yourself up and go in the water in front of a lifeguard tower,” said Jones. “Educate yourself and your kids by going up to the lifeguards and asking them what rip currents are and what you should do.”
The green flag indicates it is safe to enter the water. The yellow flag signifies to take caution when entering due to moderate currents. When the red flags are raised, lifeguards advise visitors to stay out of the ocean.