The end of the Junior Lifeguard Program is a big deal for us.
Last Thursday, the kids went to Matagorda for a full day on that beautiful, deserted beach. The next day was the first day of Beachfest, a day of competition where the kids compete in a run, swim, paddle race, run-swim-run, swim rescue, paddle rescue and beach flags.
It’s always a good time, and many of the parents come down to cheer, hang out and enjoy beach barbecue.
It’s so cool to see how far the younger kids come in only six weeks. I love the 10- to 11-year-old age group paddle race where some of the smaller kids look like they’re paddling boats.
Unfortunately, we had really rough surf and terrible weather. The poor kids had to keep clearing the water and waiting for lightning to move out of the area and start over. We had to cancel the inflatable rides as well. But it looked like everyone had fun, and at the end and we spent some good story-swapping time under tarps eating great food.
The next two days, the big guards competed for the honor of representing Galveston in the United States Lifesaving Association National Championships, which will be in Virginia Beach, Va., this year.
This is a four-day event involving both junior lifeguard events and lifeguard events where the best of the best duel it out on the beach.
Monday, we tallied up all the points from all the events. The top five men finishers for 2014 are, in this order: Kevin Anderson, Peter Davis, Kris Pompa, Dain Buck and Corbin Hoffman. For the women, we have Mary Stewart, Nikki Harclerode, Caitlin Fairhurst, Amie Hufton and Lauren Green.
This team will represent Galveston well at the National Championships.
Another thing we’re excited about is that since the Junior Guard program is over, we start our Community Beach Camps for nonprofits that work with kids, prioritizing those that work with at-risk youth. These are half-day camps that are like mini Junior Guard sessions taught by our Junior Guard instructors.
Kids get to experience a water safety seminar, learn about nutrition, hydration and sun protection, and have a discussion about what a typical day is like for a lifeguard.
Once the classroom portion is finished, they have an introduction to paddle boarding workshop. This year we’ve expanded the sessions from one to two weeks, so have the potential for 20 groups to participate.
Whether we’re talking about competition for young adults, Junior Guarding for teens and tweens, community camps for all ages or our Spring School Water Safety Education Program, hundreds if not thousands of kids and young adults are getting at least some exposure to the beach environment and the values inherent in lifesaving and public safety each season. Our wonderful instructors are great role models, embody these values and work very hard all season. I’m proud to work with them.
Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.