Their day actually gets cranking near sunrise.
As a crew, they convene at a central location. Once in place, they began a brisk round of calisthenics. The routine regularly includes exercises designed to emphasize stretching and conditioning while simultaneously helping get the early day’s competitive juices flowing throughout the body.
Following a five-minute session, they gather at a line drawn in the shore serving as both a starting and finishing spot. They embark on a designated distance beachfront back-and-forth run that comes complete with a recommended finishing time. They start with a jog, step up the pace and finish with a sprint.
After catching a quick breather, they each grab hold of their personal orange-colored and oblong-shaped buoy and head toward the ocean. They battle the waves and fight the incoming current to complete a required distance swim. They must reach a certain destination usually indicated by a permanent marker and then turn right around and head back to shore. Again, the course is expected to be completed within a certain amount of time.
Then, and only then, do they regroup to receive the rest of their shift’s assignments. They are informed of that day’s perches for their watches. From there, hopefully, it’s a day of sitting around and doing absolutely nothing.
So it goes in the daily schedule of a beach lifeguard.
“Yes,’’ admitted Ron, unwilling to reveal his last name but receptive to taking a short break from his duty just to talk to a tourist, “it’s kind of a thankless job. We put in a lot of work even before the day begins for a lot of beachgoers and the swimmers hit the beach. I guess it makes them feel a little bit at ease knowing that we’re here and watching what goes on. “
Ron hopes that watching is all he does. He admits to being confronted about a number of issues. He’s often asked about the weather forecast, concerns over sunbathing, directions to some favorite restaurants and for his cell phone number. He’s been confronted over minor beachfront disputes between neighboring sunbathers, about the size of canopies that are and are not allowed on the beach, whether he prefers bottled water over flavored drinks and if spray-on or rub-on protective sunscreen is best for the body.
To date, though, he has yet to experience a serious situation.
“We’ve had some folks feel like they have gotten too hot,’’ s Rob. “And I’ve seen some severe sunburn on some bodies that aren’t used to the kind of exposure they get out on the beach. Other than that, though, it’s been a kind of quiet summer. I hope it stays that way.”
That’s not to say that he is not prepared. All lifeguards are required to be adept swimmers and possess a healthy amount of medical-related knowledge in case they are needed to treat more serious injuries.
Naturally, from the perches on the white-colored stands that dot the Grand Strand, the lifeguards can keep constant watch on the ever-changing current conditions, swimmers that might wander too far from shore and are trained to detect anything whatsoever in the water that might even resemble an ocean life form patrolling the territory.
“I’ve never spotted a shark anywhere around here,’’ stressed Ron. “I hope I never do. A good day on the job means I never have to leave this chair.”