Hundreds of Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards (JGs, as they call themselves) participated in the 20th anniversary Monster Mile event Friday.
In the Monster Mile, the JGs run a mile and swim a mile. They start at the Junior Lifeguards Headquarters near the Balboa Pier and run down the Peninsula for a mile to 10th Street before diving into the ocean to begin the return mile swim to the finish line.
The event starts with a costume parade centered on a fun theme. This year's theme was the Wild West, so the Junior Guards Headquarters was decorated to look like an old Western town. The participants dressed as cowboys and cowgirls, Native Americans, monsters, jellyfish and sharks. And as always, there was at least one ninja.
The Monster Mile is the culmination of the six-week Junior Lifeguard program wherein the participants learn about ocean safety, physical development, personal development, emergency response skills and competition. Friday's event was especially challenging as the water temperature was a chilly 62 degrees. Nevertheless, the competition, energy and enthusiasm for this favorite program kept the participants moving.
My son Maxwell Daily, 10, participated for the first time this year. He loves the water but had not spent much time in the ocean before this program.
"Max is a first generation Californian, as his mother and I were born and raised in Wisconsin," said his dad, James Daily. "Ocean safety is critical for kids and adults in our area. We are grateful to Newport Beach for this program to teach our children these valuable skills."
Families experience great comfort in seeing the many highly qualified Junior Lifeguard staff members and city public safety officers educating and guiding the children every step of the way, from arrival at Balboa Island, while they take the ferry, while they walk or ride bikes through the Fun Zone to their classroom, and on the sand and in the surf.
The JG's enjoy lunch at the Fun Zone and the responsibility and camaraderie that comes along with being a part of such an honored program.
Our son has matured tremendously, thanks to the way Newport Beach educates and cares for its next generation.
"I feel so proud to be a Junior Guard," Maxwell said. "Before the Monster Mile, I felt pretty nervous since I had never done something like it before.
"When I got to the finish line, I felt amazing! This was huge for me and I will never forget it. We live in the best place on earth!"
CHRSITINE DAILY lives in Newport Beach.