Training for the watch

Mary A. Castillo

Every other morning you might see children in white shirts and dark

blue shorts running across the lawn at Main Beach. Backpacks are dumped

near the boardwalk as the junior lifeguards get ready for another day at


the beach.

“It’s pretty fun,” said Miranda Prado, 10. “My mom got me into it and

this is my second year.”

She and her friend Lauren Hampton, 9, hopped off the boardwalk when


the instructors summoned the guards for stretches. Everyone knows that

late arrivals add more push-ups for everyone.

Miranda and Lauren are only two of an estimated 8,000 children who

have gone through the junior lifeguard program since it was established

in the early 1960s.

“When we first started we had maybe a dozen to 25 kids,” said Mark

Klosterman, chief of Marine Safety. “This summer we have about 450.”

To ensure that everyone can handle the program, all junior guards must


pass a 100-yard swim test to get into the program, said Chad Beeler,

director of the program.

Even still, some of the junior guards are hesitant on the first day.

“One of the biggest problems is getting the kids to dunk their heads

in the water,” said Beeler who has started as an instructor in 1993 and

was promoted to director in 1996. “The second problem is getting them to

trust us to run toward a wave instead of away from it before it forms and



The junior guards are divided into age groups and spend the day

learning how to ride the waves, while exploring the coves and playing

games. The program is structured so that there are 15 students to each

instructor, not counting the youth aides.

Youth aides, who are all former junior lifeguards, are instrumental to

the program, said Beeler.

“The youth aides allow us to keep our eyes on the kids,” he said. “I

tell them that they’re the backbone of the program but they’ll have to do

the grunt work.”

This summer’s first class is set to graduate on July 19 and a few

consider themselves veterans.

Beeler enjoys watching his students make friends and encourage each

other to try things they might be hesitant to do.

Under safe conditions, students go out to the blowhole at Diver’s Cove

or “pirate’s cave” at Rockledge. They also spend time snorkeling and

learning how to paddle board or swim. Beeler stressed that students never

do anything on their own or in yellow flag conditions.

“The greatest strength of the program is safety,” Klosterman added.

Last year, Beeler started the Sea Cubs and Mermaids program for

children ages 6 to 9. The “minor junior lifeguards” learn how to paddle

board and go on tide pool explorations and hikes.

For information about the Junior Lifeguard and Sea Cubs and Mermaids

programs, call Community Services at (949) 497-0716, Ext. 6.

MARY A. CASTILLO is a news assistant for the Coastline Pilot. She

covers education, public safety and City Hall.