Busy weekend ahead

For the next four days, Huntington Beach is the place to be for non-stop action sports competition.

More than 1,000 lifeguards and junior lifeguards from across the country are expected in Surf City to compete for team and individual honors at the United States Lifesaving Assn. National Lifeguard Championships. The event begins today and runs through Saturday at Huntington State Beach at Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.

The three-day competition is hosted by the Huntington State Beach Lifeguard Assn.

"We are excited to be the host of the premiere lifeguard event in the country," said Mike Beuerlein, Marine Safety Lieutenant for Huntington Beach and region president of the California Surf Lifesaving Assn. "This event gives the lifeguards competing the chance to showcase the talents that they use on a daily basis to save lives. These men and women are premiere athletes, Olympic-type of athletes. Although it's a competition, this is three days for them to go out and have fun."

The competition is taking place a few blocks just south of the Huntington Beach Pier, site of the U.S. Open of Surfing that runs through Sunday.

"It's definitely a first for that," Beuerlein said of the two events taking place simultaneously. "The stars haven't aligned like this before. These two events definitely offer plenty of spectator-viewing action. Folks can watch both events, as they are easily within walking distance from each other."

Huntington Beach last hosted the lifeguard national championships in 2006.

Professional Lifeguards ranging from 17 to 75, and Junior Lifeguards ages 9 to 17, will compete in both water and beach course events that highlight their lifesaving skills. Events include surf swims, beach runs, surf boats and paddleboards. Highlights include the Landline Rescue Relay, Ironman and Ironwoman events and Beach Flags, a competition dubbed "the fastest event on sand."

The Junior Lifeguards competition is today and involves four divisions: AA Division (ages 16-17), A Division (14-15), B Division (12-13) and C Division (9-11).

The men and women will compete Friday and Saturday.

All competitions begin at 8 a.m. and run until the end of the day.

"This is the granddaddy of all lifeguard competitions, bringing the best of the best from across the country," said Ed Zebrowski, Competition Committee chair for the USLA.

Craig Lumb, president of the Huntington State Beach Lifeguard Assn. and event organizer, said that Huntington State and City lifeguards and Junior Lifeguards will compete in the event. He said approximately 40 Huntington State Beach lifeguards are entered in the competition

Lifeguard competition in the U.S. is based on Surf Lifesaving competitions in Australia. The first national competitions in the U.S. were organized by the Surf Life Saving Assn. of America, which in 1965 went national as the NSLSA. The first competition between lifeguards on the east and west coasts was in 1967. The NSLSA later became the USLA and the first National Lifeguard Competition was held in 1980 in San Diego. The USLA has hosted the event every year since.

Last year's competition was held in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Matthew Nunnally of Monmouth County Chapter, N.J. won the men's title and Tracey Crothers from the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Assn. took the women's crown.

The Los Angeles Co. Lifeguard Assn. won the Large Chapter Team title for the 23rd consecutive year. Monmouth County Chapter (New Jersey) was second. The Small Chapter team title went to Fort Lauderdale.

Lumb said that both Nunnally and Crothers, and the Large and Small Chapter champions, are expected back to defend their titles.

Throughout the competition's history, the Los Angeles Co. Lifeguards have won the team title 36 times, the California State Parks team has won three team titles and Monmouth County is the only non-California team to win the event, doing so in 1983.

The National Lifeguard Championships are held on alternating coasts each year. The 2011 competition will take place next August at Cape May, N.J.

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