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Junior Lifeguards Surf racing program launched for Jr. Guards by Kyra Williams

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Members of the LA County Junior Lifeguard Surf Racing Team train for surf races at Dockweiler Youth Center. Photos courtesy Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division.

by Kyra Williams

As summer comes to a close the school year starts up, and the popular Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard program shuts down. But this summer, the Junior Guard program is keeping it going, rolling out a new Surf Racing Team program for 16 and 17-year-olds.   

JGs initially applied in February and the program was offered to returning JGs with at least one year of prior JG experience. JGs enrolled in the SRT program met from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Thursday, at the Dockweiler Youth Center. The program finished on August 2.

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“The SRT program was implemented to provide an opportunity for highly motivated young men and women to continue participating in the Junior Lifeguard Program with a smaller time commitment,” LA County Lifeguard Captain Tom Seth said. “The JG Program loses members in the older ranks for a number of reasons including athletic and academic commitments. The secondary goal is to train future Lifeguards in the watermanship skills they will need when patrolling LA County Beaches.”

The LA County Junior Lifeguard Surf Racing Team trains over a shorter time commitment with intense training. “Ultimately, we want to see them become lifeguards,” LACo. Lifeguard Captain Tom Seth said.

The Junior Guard program rolled out the SRT program for the first time this year. The program was created in order to meet the ever-growing demand for more competition experience throughout the summer season. Marine Battalion Chief Murphy came up with the idea, and with approval from the Department, it was implemented by OLS Micah Carlson and OL Brian Murphy. The 2018 Team is coached by Ocean Lifeguards Tianna Pugliese and Larry Felix, Seth said.

When asked about how SRT differs from regular JGs, Seth said, “First, the SRT focuses mainly on competition. This is a team with two head coaches. All other JGs are in groups with an instructor. Because each SRT participant has successfully completed at least one year of our ‘A’ level curriculum, we do not need to cover all of the traditional JG subjects. Second, the program hours are shorter, only 2 hours a day, four days a week, with the expectation that they compete on weekends at local surf races.”

A normal day at SRT starts with meeting in the JG container (where equipment is stored), discussing upcoming events and things to work on. After that, they do a dynamic warm-up, and get into competitive races including swimming, paddling or running. Depending on the surf, they train on the 16-foot surf skis, SRT JG Chase Coppedge said.

“I chose to do the program because I enjoy paddling and ocean swimming and wanted to stay in shape while being at the beach this summer,” Coppedge said. “My hope is that SRT becomes as widespread as JGS and that teenagers can find the love for paddling and the ocean through this program.”

Seth said that they are hoping to see this program grow. Right now it serves 20 youths, but moving forward they want to see it go to two locations, with up to 40 young people competing on our teams.

“Our hope is that these SRT members become Regional and National Champions, and leverage their training into success at the schools of their choice,” Seth said. “Ultimately, we want them to become lifeguards, and we want to see the SRT become a conduit to that.”

The JGs train in order to have good performances/results in competitions such as the South Bay Dozen, JG Regionals, and Nationals. The program will be represented as a team in Virginia this year at Nationals. This program also gives the JGs a better chance at one-day becoming lifeguards, Arky said.

“This program gives the JGs a huge advantage for becoming lifeguards due to the hard amount of work and training being put in,” Arky said. “It has really inspired me to want to compete more and eventually become a lifeguard and help others to learn these helpful techniques.”

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