Students of all abilities and skill levels who can pass a qualifying swim test may participate in California State Parks’ Junior Lifeguard program. While training at state parks and beaches, well-rounded “Junior Guards” learn and practice ocean safety, team-building and leadership while gaining respect for the environment and for themselves, their families and their peers.
The young people spend three to five weeks attending fee-based day camps, where they also learn first aid and CPR. Junior Lifeguards improve their physical condition together as they drill through open-water swimming, paddleboarding, body surfing, body boarding, surfing and self-rescue exercises. Fitness conditioning and training are interspersed with beach ecology, marine biology and other interpretive conservation topics.
The California State Parks Junior Lifeguard program began at Huntington State Beach in 1972, when Robert Isenor was director of Aquatic Safety. Isenor sought grant backing for a self-funded youth program and quickly received a commitment to match the funding. Immensely popular, summer Junior Guard groups soon spread to Carlsbad, Silver Strand, Huntington and San Clemente State Beaches and eventually to beaches and inland lakes statewide. Field trips, overnight campouts, deep-sea fishing, and other ocean- or lake-oriented excursions rounded out the Junior Guard sessions.
The founders’ intent for the State’s junior lifeguard training was to provide water-safety orientation and lifeguard training that instills self-confidence and awareness in the trainees. Along with the obvious benefits of making young beachgoers safe in the ocean, the training also created a pool for those interested in becoming seasonal State Park Lifeguards.
Similar programs run by cities and counties now exist throughout California; the mission of California State Parks, however, adds cultural, environmental, and recreational education to our curriculum. The social contacts that kids make at these Junior Guard sessions—often for several summers running—do result in lifelong friendships.
Some other participating state beaches and parks with summertime Junior Guard training are Lake Perris, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area near Sacramento, Oceano Dunes SVRA near Pismo Beach, Half Moon Bay, Monterey and Santa Cruz State Beaches on the central coast, Leo Carrillo State Beach at Malibu, and Silver Strand State Beach in San Diego. Scholarships and reduced-tuition assistance may be available from our park partners—several nonprofit cooperating associations.
To see a typical Junior Lifeguard session schedule at Carlsbad State Beach, visit http://www.carlsbadjgs.com/5.html.
To learn more about the California State Parks Junior Lifeguard program, its venues and sign-up deadlines, visit http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=23759.
Santa Cruz Junior Guards enjoy a visit from the CalStar air ambulance team.