Monday, April 21, 2014



By Adam Sandler

On Saturday, April 26th, 2014, the United States Lifesaving Assn. is holding a 50th Anniversary Conference and Lifeguard Reunion dinner gala in Huntington Beach at the Shorebreak Hotel (details on the USLA website).

In honor of that momentous milestone, "County Recurrent" caught up with some of the lifeguard legends and movers and shakers who started the organization, and those who keep it firing on all cylinders.

“Fifty is a big number. 50 years is a long time. A 50th Anniversary is a milestone accomplishment,” observes Mike Beuerlein, president of the California Surf Lifesaving Assn. “What started out as a grass roots effort in 1964, has resulted in 1.5 million lives saved by CSLSA agency lifeguards over the past 50 years. We truly do have a lot to celebrate.”

But the vision to start an organization to represent the interests of professional lifeguarding was hatched almost a decade earlier when a handful of now lifeguarding legends, such as Bob Burnside, Tom Zahn, Bud Stevenson, Tad Devine, Greg Noll, among many others, were invited by Australian lifesavers to participate in an invitational lifesaving competition on November 26, 1956 as part of a showcase to coincide with Australia hosting the 1956 summer Olympics. The lifeguards from the U.S needed to form an organization to represent the competitors, so the Surf Life Saving Assn. of America was created by then LA County Lifeguard Chief Bud Stevenson.  It would be the first American lifeguard association.

“After Australia, Bud gathered us at the Santa Monica headquarters and appointed me president and Don Hill as secretary,” Burnside tells County Recurrent. “We immediately went into full-on fundraising and campaigning mode.”  Burnside recalls how when then Los Angeles Times Sports writer Jim Murray mentioned in a column that he was giving $1 to the SLSA that “his short mention raised $3,000 for us from LA Times readers!” Stevenson’s aspirations for the group were to be politically active and give professional lifeguarding a big presence on the west coast.

“Eventually, I said to Bud, why can’t we form the SLSA into a national association?” Burnside recalls.  That query would launch the National Surf Lifesaving Assn. of America, which throughout the years would often be called upon by lifeguarding agencies across the county to assess their beach lifeguarding operations and make recommendations. The NSLSA would become the United States Lifesaving Assn. in 1975.

Along the way there were growing pains. “There was a period where one group wanted to be strictly an educational outfit, and others wanted to concentrate on competition,” says Burnside, who would serve as president until 1967. “Thankfully, we settled those differences.”

Burnside, along with a number of lifeguarding legends – Max Bowman, Dick Miller, Don Rohrer, Bill Richardson, among others -- will be part of an Educational Conference Saturday April 26 at 1300 hrs (1 pm), as part of the USLA’s Board of Director’s meeting at the Shorebreak Hotel. 

Burnside will debut a video presentation, to which County Recurrent has obtained the World Exclusive Sneak Preview of a part of it:

Bob Burnside competing at the 2014 USLA Nationals!
Bob will also be presenting inscribed medallions called “The Surfman Check” to some of the legends/early founders of the USLA who will be present. The medal dates back to the US Lifesaving Service – the precursor to the US Coast Guard.

A holder of this medal is considered to have reached the pinnacle of professional surf lifesaving.  

And Richardson discovered an awesome “Heroes of Lifeguarding” poster while going through the NSLSA archives in Huntington Beach.

The poster is autographed by many lifeguard heroes/legends. It will be auctioned off on Saturday.

While Bob says he is pleased at the way the USLA has evolved, he bristles that more lifeguards don’t join the USLA (something he has espoused often in the blog pages of CR).

“It’s Lifeguards For Life. It’s a brotherhood. It’s a family,” he says. “The money you put in helps all of us. We need more national participation from the guards.”

Since the USLA has launched “50 USLA Lifesaving Sport Champions”** as a way of saluting the past competitive legends and the next wave, CR asked Bob for his Top-10 list of Lifeguards who have made a difference overall:

1. Bud Stevenson

2. Rusty “Dutch” Miller

3. Preston Peterson

4. Vince Moorehouse

5. Rusty Williams

6. Myron Cox

7. Max Bowman

8. Chris Brewster

9. Phil Stubbs

10. Bill Richardson

Says Burnside: “These guys have contributed both to the profession of lifeguarding and the growth of the national organization. Each have clearly left an impact on our profession.”

We couldn’t have said it better, Bob.

**If any CR readers have a suggestions for the Top Lifeguard Competitors of the past 50 Years, they can email them to

Note: There will be another Lifeguard Reunion Gala on the East Coast, as part of the 2014 USLA Nautica National Lifesaving Competition, which will be held Aug. 6-9, at Virginia Beach, Va. hosted by the Virgina Beach Lifeguard Assn.

(Pic enclosed below features Bob Burnside and Adam Sandler at USLA Nationals 2013 After-Party discussing whether the salad dressing made by Kevin Barry had strawberries or raspberries in it).



For those playing the trivia game at home, the 1956 SLSA Team Members included:

Team Captain Rusty Williams of Los Angeles County, Team Coach Kirby Temple, Team Manager Herb Barthels, Sr. (LA  City), Tad Devine (Santa Monica City), LA County's Bob Burnside, Mike Bright, Greg Noll, Dave Ballinger, Chick McIlroy, Paul McIlroy, Sheridan Byerly and Roger Jensen. The Hawaiian lifeguard team included Dr. Don Gustuson, Team Manager Harry Shaeffer, Team Coach Tom Shaeffer, Tom Moore, Tom Zahn, Dan Durego, Tim Guard, L. Honka, Peter Balding, and Shaky Felez.



*** Many Thanks to our Freelance Correspondent, Adam Sandler, for this exceptional article ! ***


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

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