Students in the San Luis Reservoir Junior Lifeguard Program are diving to new depths in their endeavor to become junior lifeguards by engaging in extensive aquatic interaction, exploration and recreation outside of the pool.
Through the California State Parks system, boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 14 years old are participating in the first lake safety and interpretation program in the Central Valley at San Luis Creek.
“The Central Valley has a great need for aquatic safety and aquatic education—both of which are built into the program,” said California State Park Peace Officer and lifeguard Micah Moore. “These programs are available up and down the state, but this is the first in the area.
“We wanted to establish something similar here, because it is hard to find people who are strong in the water and who are physically able to be lifeguards,” continued Moore.
The goal of the program is to provide a safe place where participants can be instructed in a variety of skills pertaining to the lifeguarding profession and the aquatic environment.
Over the course of the three-week program, students engage in water- oriented course that introduces them to basic CPR skills, first aid, rescue techniques and lifeguarding procedures. All lessons are taught by part-time instructors and California State Parks season lifeguards.
“We want to get our junior lifeguards geared towards learning lifeguard skills in the future for a career or even a summer job,” said Moore.
Students also participate in recreational activities throughout the course, including dodge ball, beach flag football, paddle boarding, kayaking and swimming. Students are also educated on how to perform mock rescue and victim recognition, as well as lake operation.
“They learn most of the skills that an open water lifeguard possesses,” said Moore. “There is a lot more training than what is needed in the pool.”
Moore said that learning how to be a junior lifeguard in the reservoir poses many significant challenges not present when learning how to be a junior lifeguard in a pool environment.
“The conditions are much more variable,” said Moore. “The wind creates all kinds of hazards and our junior lifeguards learn how to address them.”
Additionally, the lack of visibility in the creek also presents certain hardships, since swimmers are unable to see the bottom and can swim to a position outside of their physical capabilities.
“For California State Parks, our policy is preventative action,” said Moore. “We want to contact people before they get to that point.”
Turlock 10-year old Daniel Sanchez decided to enroll in the three-week course to learn how to save people’s lives using CPR and to also have fun.
Sanchez said that his favorite and most challenging part of the course thus far revolved around kayaking, stating that he enjoyed the team effort aspect of the activity that encouraged them to paddle across the lake, but that he also found it difficult to maneuver the kayak under high winds.
“We had to come back yesterday because it was really windy,” said Sanchez.
After completion of the San Luis Reservoir Junior Lifeguard Program, Sanchez said that he wants to become a lifeguard in college.
The San Luis Reservoir Junior Lifeguard Program costs $280 for each participant. Those interested in enrolling next year must first complete a try out to see if they are physically able to complete the course. For more information, visit parks.ca.gov.