Junior lifeguard program now in 27th year

Sporting only red shorts, 9-year-old Joe Ruiz jumped up and down to keep warm.

But nothing, not even the missing sunshine on Monday, was going to take away his excitement on his first day of the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard program.

Joe is one of about 1,250 junior lifeguards who signed up for the program this summer.

"It's good. It's great. It's fun. It's really, really fun," he said — still jumping up and down.

Joe hadn't done much yet, but he couldn't wait to do all the things junior lifeguards try and learn during the 8-week, 4-day a week summer program.

The program, which is offered by the Newport Beach Fire Department, provides kids with safety and educational tools.

"It's all about safety, safety first, safety last and safety always," said Newport Beach Lifeguard Battalion Chief Rob Williams, who also coordinates the junior lifeguard program.

Now in its 27th year, the program has graduated thousands of kids between 9 and 15 years of age.

During the 8 weeks, the juniors are offered a variety of tasks to accomplish and lessons to learn. Among them is how to jump off the pier — something Joe was really looking forward to — how to wrap a buoy, how to bodysurf and how to take care of the ocean and the beach.

The junior lifeguards are also taught about rip currents, hand signals, the danger of sun rays, the importance of sunscreen, ocean tides and how to avoid spinal injury, among other lessons.

Delaney Bass, who enrolled for the second year, said she's looking forward to learning how to bodysurf in the waves. It's something she and her friends want to do together, she said.

She also wants to learn how to get out of a swell and what each color flag represents. Last year, Delaney finished first place in her category.

"It's really, really fun to be at the beach throughout the summer," said the 10-year-old.

The junior lifeguards are divided into four categories based on their age. At the end of the program, they all graduate, but with different ranks depending on the tasks they've completed, Williams said.

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