Monday, June 17, 2013

Becoming A Lifeguard

Back in my junior year of high school I decided to change from an ordinary person who could not swim into a red-suited superhero under the classification of lifeguard (still waiting for my cape). I started by volunteering for a summer camp called Day Camp Adventures. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday our camp would travel to a different pool around central Iowa to spend the afternoon swimming. There was one pool that everyone loved to go to in southern Iowa, about 2 hours away known as Beach Ottumwa. The large complex had a 60ft speed slide and a wave pool. After everyone is ready to swim most of us would head to the speed slide for a ride. A fear of heights and falling off the slide to my death resulted in only one rid per visit, so I would then head to the wave pool. While a panic attack for lifeguards, this was the main stop for most of our kids including our younger ones. During one sequence of waves two of our 7 year olds could not take the waves and needed to be pulled out. The other lifeguards were focused on the deeper water and didn't notice the two girls, but being within arms reach of both I pulled them to the shallower end with less activity and crazy kids on inner tubes. This event was the turning point of becoming a lifeguard.

Being a nerd, lets just say I was NOT athletic. My parents made me do track in 8th grade but I did not enjoy it. It did though improve my mile time to under 12 minutes. At my school everyone had to run the mile at least once per year of gym class and I did not want to do that again. I had to find some way out of it, and my high school offered it…a free lifeguarding class. No mile, no basketball, and 125$ off normal lifeguarding class fee. Having already decided to become a lifeguard, the universe was calling for me to don the red swimsuit with white cross. The universe and I overlooked one very important fact…I do not know how to swim.

Try as they might every swim lesson my parents and grandparents enrolled me in did not fair well. I wasn't afraid of the water or anything, I loved it. However if I am put into a pool, I am going down to the bottom of the deep end to sit as long as I can. Sinking did not require swimming skills. Coming back up was fine as long as you stayed near the wall or doggy paddle, which I could. A prerequisite of the lifeguarding class is being able to swim 300 yards using the front craw and breaststroke, which yes people, they are two totally different things. Having a car at that point, I would go to the YMCA next to my high school every Monday and Wednesday morning for about six weeks to practice swimming. There was no swim instructor or anyone to teach me to swim, just lappets. Well once I got into the water I would sink down to the bottom and watch the swimmers go back and forth, then when I came up for air I would mimic what I just saw.

A few weeks later winter semester started and it was time for my class. Very first day was the prerequisites test. Front craw 100 yards, breaststroke 100 yards, then do either one of them again. I got in there and hopped in the water and did my first set of 100. I didn't notice anyone else in the water so I thought I was doing something before I was suppose to so I stopped and looked around. The other students were trying to figure out how to do the front craw. Score 1 point for me; I can swim better than the rest of my class! I stayed ahead for all of the class and was conferrable enough I did not freak when strapped into the board like one of the students did.
I have now been certified for 6 years and still going strong. Have guarded for 3 pools and a lakefront, I have seen rescues, crazy kids, crazy parents, good guards, bad guards, and poop. Lots of poop.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

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