Laguna Beach Lifeguard Tryouts 2019

 Saturday morning at approximately 9 a.m., close to 30 young men and women charged into the Pacific Ocean (57-degree water temperature) to begin the first challenge to become a Laguna Beach Lifeguard candidate. Without any body protection of any kind they are instructed to swim out to an offshore buoy, round it and turn south towards another buoy located some 600 meters away, then make the return trip through wind ripping, raging storm surf to complete the 1,500 meter swim (without fins) in under 20 minutes to qualify for the next two sprint trials. Those participants that cannot complete this endurance swim or complete it under the 20-minute deadline are disqualified from this year’s class of candidates.

These tryouts have always been held in the winter months during the coldest conditions. In my opinion, these are not tryouts…this is abusive hazing from a sports club that has continued without any consciousness for 50 years. There is absolutely no reason to hold the tryouts in the dead of winter conditions, or to require the participants to have no protection from the severe cold burn on their bodies let alone the possible bacteria contamination from the direct contact of the polluted waters from the storms. In my opinion, this isn’t a test for the participants…it is a jealous moniker for the guards-past who had to endure such physical abuse. The time for this right-of-passage needs to stop now. I believe this is untainted human cruelty disguised as a civic honor.

This year, many witnessed a young woman, pushed to her limits, collapse while still in the water nearing the shoreline, and if not for the quick reaction of a veteran lifeguard present (in full wetsuit and fins), I believe we might have witnessed our first death in these trials. You heard me right. Emergency services were called to respond (paramedics and the Fire Department) and although the young woman recovered consciousness, her ordeal was orchestrated by the Laguna Beach Lifeguard Department.

What will it take before the City Manager, City Council, and Lifeguard Chief wake up to the reality that their actions may bring a lawsuit to the City and the dishonorable firing of the Chief for what many believe is this continued cruelty? Exposing a talent of swimmers to hyperthermia and the damage it brings oneself is not badge of honor. Stop this practice of insanity now.

John Slowsky

Laguna Beach Lifeguard 1968-1973