Local beaches brace for lifeguard shortage as summer crowds return

With summer beach crowds gearing up, lifeguard agencies all over the country are having a difficult time recruiting trainees for seasonal jobs after COVID. The training has always been difficult, so what is different?

FOX 11 caught up with State Park Superintendent Kevin Pearsall while lifeguard trainees underwent training at Newport Beach State Beach. He says part of the problem is the long days. Lifeguards typically work 10 to 12-hour days, many of them for $17.73 an hour. But Pearsall says that even agencies like Long Beach, which pay closer to $24 an hour, are facing similar staffing shortages.

Complicating matters further, there are more pools and water attractions offering jobs now that they have reopened, and shifts that are easier than the long hours at the beach. There’s the hesitancy, still, of physical contact, from CPR or bleeding wounds, in the post-COVID era. There’s even the issue, for younger social media-dependent candidates, of not wanting to give up their personal cell phones during working hours.

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Still, says the long-time staffer we spoke to, "it's the best job in the world."  They are the ones working overtime to fill in the seasonal postings, and make sure the lifeguard towers are staffed as summer crowds get bigger. "This kind of training will teach you skills that you can take with you to many other jobs," said one lifeguard.  But, many stay because of the family-type connections between them, in doing a job where they can truly see their efforts pay off, helping others.

Looking out onto the surf line, says one lifeguard "you can’t beat the office view."

Information about the state lifeguard program training locations for beaches can be found at parks.ca.gov/?page_id=30304 and for lakes at parks.ca.gov/?page_id=30307.