Junior lifeguard programs canceled in Los Angeles County, Seal Beach

A San Diego Junior Lifeguard jumps off the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier in August 2018.  Coastal cities across California are determining whether to cancel the summer program amid to the coronavirus pandemic.
( K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A generation of junior lifeguards may lose out on their California birthright because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the city of Seal Beach have canceled their junior lifeguard programs, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

“We waited as long as possible to make this decision in the hopes things would change,” Seal Beach Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey said in a statement. “It was a difficult decision and we wanted to give participants and their families as much notice as possible. Our goal is to remain responsive to the community’s needs and to ensure the safety, security, health for all in Seal Beach.”

Some coastal cities, including Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and San Clemente, as well as the state’s parks are waiting to see whether the program is still feasible this summer, holding off on swim tryouts.

“At this time, we are cautiously optimistic that the 2020 Long Beach Junior Lifeguard Summer Program will take place,” according to a city website. “As you know, this is a dynamic situation and decisions about summer camps and children’s outdoor activities are still pending.”

The Junior Lifeguard Program is a summer tradition for many who live near the coast. In order to participate, students must pass a swim test that includes treading water for five minutes and swimming 10 yards underwater without coming up for a breath. The program helps students navigate the ever-changing ocean environment, perform lifesaving skills such as CPR and tests their physical fitness.