Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“Lifeguarding - Zuma”, by Bob Burnside

(All photos above by and Copyright Nick Steers 2004. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission. Do not reproduce without permission.)

note: Per Nick, the photos were taken at "Zuma Beach 2004 in the afternoon on Labor Day flying with the Sheriff Helicopter and I spotted this Rip current and a rescue in progress with Scott Bernhoft and Clay Housley being the two Zuma guards involved."


“Lifeguarding - Zuma”, by Bob Burnside

"Zuma was getting developed on our return from Europe. The parking lots and had expanded and the north end of the area was added with restrooms and a snack stand. The division had come a long way in 6 years. Our surf conditions had made a reputation for the area and its lifeguards. Consistently, our surf and rip currents were big and dangerous. The Los Angeles Times often wrote articles about Zuma and displayed photos of the large surf and rescues. Times were changing and as acting Lieutenant, in the absence of the officers 4 days a week, I recognized that we just could not allow swimmers to put themselves into dangerous circumstances.

The lifeguard policy for years had been... ”do not leave your tower, unless you must make a rescue. Maintain observation until it is required your leaving!” That was a written policy that... just did not work anymore. Our crowds were getting larger... and at Zuma, conditions were not like other beaches in the (Santa Monica) Bay area. I initiated a new “Policy”... and it was simple and became the Motto for Zuma. It was... ”IF YOU HAVE TO A MAKE A RESCUE... YOU ARE NOT DOING YOUR JOB.”

“Prevention” would become the future posture for lifeguarding. We encouraged all station guards to leave the towers and move possible victims out of the water or to a safer location... Even with this approach, we recorded large rescue figures annually. Developing an “all stations shift” procedure allowed for maximum coverage. What that entailed was the following procedure: Anytime a lifeguard would hit the water on a rescue, he would leave a section of beach without a lifeguard in that zone. The “Shift Procedure” required that all lifeguard stations on either side of the vacated station to always keep an eye on the adjacent lifeguard and his location... Once they noticed that a lifeguard had left the station to either warn or make a rescue, all towers would shift to take up that gap... both from the right and from the left...

In the 25 years at Zuma, which is considered the most treacherous public beach on the west coast... we only recorded “2” drownings... and each of those were under very unusual circumstances, and during minimum coverage periods."


*** Many Thanks to Bob for sharing this excerpt from his biography about Zuma and its surf and rips and the evolution of preventative lifeguarding procedures. Also, Many Thanks to Nick Steers for these three compelling photos included herein which dramatically depict the rips at Zuma.


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News


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William Maguire said...

Just in from retired LACo / Zuma Recurrent, Dave Rochlen (nephew of the other/original Dave Rochlen, the Santa Monica City beach lifeguard who later moved to Hawaii and started SurfLine and Jam's World "back in the day":

"Aloha Gang-

Zuma Rescues. Where else can a lifeguard, while swimming out to rescue victims in a rip, dive down 5-6 feet, dig ones fingers and toes into the bottom to no avail as the wave you are diving under, picks your entire body off the bottom and gives you the all time over the falls experience? Then after being bounced off the bottom and being washed half way back into shore, start the process all over again? One serious surf rescue at Zuma surpasses 15-20 rescues in Santa Monica.

At Zuma Beach, boys became men after working their first large south swell day from Towers 1-4. And, thank God for the guidance supplied by the permanent guard the novice was working with on those first reality check days.

Dave Rochlen"

William Maguire said...

Also from Dave Rochlen, this afternoon, an editorial comment on the Zuma Lifeguard Staff of the 1960's:

I am wondering if the Zuma Lifeguard is acknowledged as the best lifeguard per pound in the world? Please let me know if you are aware of any other lifeguard service, with a pool of about 30 guys who could match up with lifeguard competition as well as lifeguard rescue results in trying conditions better than The Zuma Beach Lifeguards of the early 1960’s? I mean talk about covering all of the bases! With the expert staff of professionals like Bob Burnside, Howard Lee, Gar Stiener, Bob Hughes, Haddock, Cal Porter being mentors to the up and coming guards who had made the cut to become Zuma guards-has to be unmatched at the time and perhaps even now. It just had to be a highlight of my life. Besides, being a local boy from Point Dume made it even sweeter.

I mean, how many guys got to be a part of so many Taplin championship Teams? How many guys got to experience the Radio Station Riots with just a skeleton crew of guards waiting for the motorcycle cops to arrive from town? Because squad cars could not reach Zuma since 101 was totally jammed with traffic all the way back to the Malibu Mayfair Market? How many guys got to witness Bob Hughes calming down a crowd of ho daddy’s with his calm, cool and collected manner? And that Brazilian guard who defended against a crowd of guys rushing a tower he was in? (Planted his foot into the chest of the lead guy rushing up the ramp knocking him backward into the close packed followers who then fell backward, ripping the rails off of the Guard tower ramp?) Oh, there are just so many memories-

Don’t want to get to excited at this age-

Dave Rochlen"

William Maguire said...

Just in from 60's era Zuma recurrent, Larry "Duck" Loganbill (who is absolutely hilarious!):

"To a man all the Permanents of the 60s were great mentors. I was just thinking sitting here with my morning coffee how we hardly ever saw Ted Davis and McKinley, the boat skippers... thinking they didn't really know who we beach lifeguards were. But whenever the surf was huge and we had a "blitz" and the Baywatch was there to give our victims a blow...... they always talked to me by name and usually had some positive reinforcement/praise for what I was doing in the middle of the madness. I know the praise and the use of my forename or nickname calmed me down while trying to figure out how to get my victims back to the beach with huge 8ft. Zuma surf crashing down on top of us.

Long may they ride... Ted and was it Leonard?


PS: It seemed to me the critical thing about lifeguard training was "when" to enter the water... most of us could spot the rip currents... it was the permanents that showed us we had to go as soon as we saw swimmers in the rip... no one wanted to look like an imbecile rescuing people who didn't need our help. Howard Lee showed me on one of my first days at Zuma in 1962... when I was standing in front of the rip watching the swimmers but I had not yet entered the water... when I saw Howie sprinting down the HQ stairs...(I was working Tower 6)... I knew then I had entered the
"Zone of Proximal Development" as Vygotsky calls it... that "aha" moment like when you first figure out how to ride a bicycle or stand up on a surfboard. This is a skill that just cannot be taught with a slide show, film or video. I guess it's called "on the job training"? Actually doing it."