Solana Beach Junior Lifeguard camp experience provides life-lasting memories, skills and more
Summer is back and so are all the fun activities and camps along San Diego’s scenic beaches. Seven- to 16-year-olds who share a love for the beach join another Solana Beach Junior Lifeguard (SBJL) summer camp weekdays in the mornings and/or afternoons for two weeks. In their red swimsuits and white rash guards splashing against ocean blue waters, they are making life-lasting memories and new friendships. They adventure while exercising on land and in the water, learning safety and lifesaving skills with some of the most experienced lifeguards.
Marine Safety Sergeant Evan Mason, 31, found his start at SBJL camp at the age of 10. Over four years, he completed eight weeks of the summer camp which then led and inspired him to become an intern at the age of 16. After five years of lifeguard experience, he became a senior lifeguard and eventually a certified sergeant. Mason also worked as a state park lifeguard in Cardiff, Carlsbad and Torrey Pines state beaches and subsequently became a state park peace officer, lifeguard in Malibu before returning to Solana Beach for a sergeant position. He is now working full-time at the Solana Beach lifeguard headquarters, training young ocean lovers and saving lives not only on the beach but also wherever emergency calls for it. When asked what he likes the most about working in Solana Beach, he answered “Bonding with other lifeguards, we are like a family here.”
Some instructors, such as Brian Applegate, Cooper Mortimer, and Sage Bolaris bring their actual family on board to participate in the program or become one of the assistant instructors. It’s a very young, fun and vibrant environment. Russ Schutz, one of the senior lifeguards since 1986 who still participates in the program and trains junior lifeguards, was the lead singer in the local band Skanic. He can be found playing in a new band called Mr. Hand on local stages in North County.
Another young lifeguard and SBJL instructor is Emma Hart who broke a state record in the women’s 100 and 200 meter butterfly this year.
The mission of the SBJL program is to provide a safe and fun environment where participants learn about lifeguarding, safety, the beaches, the ocean, and coastal bluffs. The objective is to build confidence, skill and endurance in kids through training, education, exercise, and activities. SBJL fosters a sense of community, mutual respect and building self-esteem among the kids who keep coming back year after year.
When 10-year-old Annabelle Reynolds, who completed her second year as a SBJL this summer, was asked why she travels all the way from Illinois to participate in this program, she responded “I love how fun the camp is, we socialize, play, make new friends, and at the same time learn and practice ocean safety.”
Vivian Oldakowski, one of the 7-year-old students from the youngest group “Groms,” said, “I love everything about this camp, I want to come back again and again so that I can save lives soon.” Her 11-year-old sister and a junior lifeguard Sofia said, “The best part of being a lifeguard is the responsibility that allows others to feel safe with us is so rewarding.”
As the waters get warmer every year and the sea levels rise, it is important that beach goers swim in front of an open lifeguard tower and stay clear of all bluffs overhangs and caves.
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