Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Advent of the LACo Ocean Recheck Swim", by Chief Bob Burnside, Ret.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Burnside. Used here with permission.)

In retrospect of yesterday's (06.08.2011) ocean recheck swim at 2600 Strand which 17 lifeguards did not complete (out of 39 swimmers), representing an approximately 44 percent failure rate, we asked Chief Bob Burnside, Ret. for some perspective on this anomaly and if there were any historical references he recalled with respect to rechecks.

Here is what Bob poignantly said in reply this morning:

"When I was promoted to Chief...and the first recheck under my appointment came up, I had grave concerns about the annual recheck that had been policy for years. It was a 500 meter pool swim, under (I believe) 13 minutes.

Over the years I had noticed that many of the lifeguards were not in shape when they came on schedule. I was not impressed with pool rechecks, obliviously, we need to be sure that our people could make an ocean swim from a beach start thru the surf and around a buoy and back to the beach within a time frame to be established annually.

The notice went out (circa 1976) that the recheck would change and be held at Hermosa Pier. I had a buoy set out near the end of the pier and tested the time frame myself. I was able to make the swim from the beach start around the buoy back and up the beach in, as I recall, about 9 minutes. So I set the time limit at 15 minutes to finish the course. I kept in mind that my swim skills were likely considerably better than the majority of seasonal lifeguards, as I was still active in masters swim events and swam daily at Pepperdine College.

LACOLA made a big push to prevent the change. The Director, Dick Fitzgerald, was approached by the recurrent representative, arguing that the water temp. would be difficult at the early recheck date, that conditions and fair measurements of a distance to evaluate was unfair, etc., etc. Fitz called me in to discuss the issue. I adamantly argued my case. "We are beach lifeguards Fitz, these guys need to pass a swim that is what they will experience the first day they go on schedule." Additionally,I told him, to much "hanky panky" stuff has been going on with the pool swims. I closed by stating to him... "Fitz, you appointed me as the Chief. I feel strongly that this is the best way to have a recheck. He agreed and we went forward with the scheduling.

There was a lot of grumbling from many that showed up for the first recheck day. That day the water temp was around 63 degrees, a strong wind chop and 4 foot surf was hitting the south side of the pier. I watched the first group hit the water from the observation office with the Hqts crew viewing the start... To everyone's great surprise, out of the initial group of around 35 men, 11 of them never made it out beyond the surf line... and 3 additional's couldn't make the time limit.

It shocked everyone... The point had been made!

When the second group lined up, I went down, put my trunks on and took the swim with them.... Obviously, to present to them that if I made this call, I was willing to go with the plan also. In that second group, another 5 or more couldn't get out... and a few others failed in the time frame.

The point was made...It was an eye opener for everyone.

Daily, get your butts wet, policy was instigated in the Southern and Central sections. Zuma, had for years had that policy in place... but it now became a Dept. Policy.

The in and out drills are the answer.
Exact entry training, digging down and rapid acceleration to the victim... swimming with head up (eyes on the victim) are the best training for a lifeguard... Pool swims mean nothing.

Lifeguards must be ready for any challenge... and feel confident they can handle anything when it comes up.

Comments about this year's recheck and miscues by many should be a grave concern to The Admin. staff... and LACOLA. I'm sure that Randy DeGregori and/or Howard Lee will recall the issue.



Thanks Chief! We really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and recollections on this important matter of training, fitness and preparedness for the ocean by all recurrent lifeguard staff, etc.


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

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1 comment:

hotchkisslandscape said...

Good thing Chief Fraizer did the swim with us. He came in pretty fast with the front third of the group. I need to add that luckily I came in AHEAD of him at around 9:25, and this was a hard swim. It was the most difficult recheck swim for me out of the 27 done so far, and I am in shape doing a 5:25 500 in workouts. I have noticed as the years add up that I am more sensitive to cold water. The conditions were such that it was just a tough swim.