Crystal Cove starts junior lifeguard program

Jesse Heydorff likes to call the inaugural Crystal Cove State Park Junior Lifeguard program "outdoor science camp meets junior lifeguard training."

From 8:45 a.m. to noon June 24 through Aug. 2, children ages 9 to 15 will hike, swim, paddleboard, snorkel and learn about native plants and animals among the park's 2,400 woodland acres and 3.2 miles of beach.

State park authorities tapped lifeguards Schuyler Kirby and Chris Heinrich to start the program this year, and the two have been creating a website and fliers to get the word out.

They then tapped Heydorff, who spent 14 years as a Huntington Beach state lifeguard, to create the curriculum.

"We want to make kids have an experience unlike anything in our community," Heydorff, 29, said. "The goal is to have kids walk their parents through the park and identify plant and marine life."

Children will swim a course set up by lifeguards using buoys at Moro Beach — below El Moro Campground.

Every Wednesday, Winter Bonnin, interpretive naturalist for the park, will lead the young campers on hikes, discuss park features and identify the animals that live there and how to spot them by their tracks.

The park is home to bobcats, roadrunners, rattlesnakes and lizards, Bonnin said.

"All these animals live with each other," Bonnin said. "Each one has a role."

She leads a similar hike Tuesdays and Thursdays for the park's Junior Rangers program.

"We're really lucky to have Crystal Cove," Bonnin said. "I've seen mule deer by the interpretive center [on the east side of Coast Highway]."

Bonnin will also teach children about bugs "people love to hate," such as beetles.

Junior Lifeguard activities will also include stretching and yoga. A morning lecture might be followed by a jog to the nearby tidepools and another lecture, Heydorff said. Certified state lifeguards will teach students ocean safety and first aid.

As of Monday, 50 children, mostly from Newport Beach, Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, had enrolled in the six-week program, Heydorff said.

Cost is $475 per person and includes a uniform of a shirt and shorts. The program is open to children from all cities.

Children should bring water and a snack, fins and a towel.

Lifeguards will hold one more tryout at Huntington Beach's Edison High School from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The tryout includes a 100-yard swim, 10-yard underwater swim and 5-minute treading water test, according to Heydorff.

Camp payment is due at the tryout.

Education, conservation and interpretation are state park values Heydorff hopes to instill in campers.

"We're not trying to compete with Huntington, Laguna and Newport lifeguard programs," he said. "The Newport junior guards have been great in endorsing us. We've always wanted to have a junior guard program [at Crystal Cove]. Now we have funding and the infrastructure to do it."

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World