Differences Between Beachfront Lifeguarding and Pool / Lake Lifeguarding
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Differences Between Beachfront Lifeguarding and Pool / Lake Lifeguarding


When it comes to lifeguarding, there are basically two kinds. There is the more common pool and waterfront lifeguarding, which allows the lifeguard to work in locations without any kind of surf, such as pools, lakes, and ponds. And there is beachfront lifeguarding, which allows the lifeguard to work on beaches facing the ocean.

The two jobs are actually very different, despite both being considered “lifeguarding. In general, beachfront is the more rigorous of the two, but there are many other differences as well. Read on.

Beachfront is More Challenging

Perhaps the biggest difference between beachfront and pool/lake lifeguarding is the difficulties in performing a rescue. While rescues are never simple, in a pool or a lake, you do not have to deal with crashing waves, changing currents, and riptides. Also, a pool is much smaller than a beachfront, so it is easier to manage the people swimming in it and keep an eye on everyone.

However, when on a beachfront, you are rarely alone. It is not uncommon for three or four lifeguards to be at one station, watching the beach. At a pool, you may be guarding the entire area by yourself. So, while you don't have to deal with the wildlife, you do not have help.

While these are generalities and every lifeguarding job is different, they are important to keep in mind as you make your decision.

Beachfront Requires Extra Training

When you get a beachfront lifeguarding job, you are expected to participate in extra training to ensure you remain at the top of your game. While the certification is enough for pools and lakes, beachfront lifeguards often must receive additional training while on the job. They are often expected to:

  • Practice rescue techniques.
  • Review First Aid and CPR training in addition to more severe injuries such as spinal damage.
  • Practice patron surveillance techniques.
  • Practice using ocean lifeguarding equipment such as all terrain vehicles, rescue boards, buoys, kayaks, paddleboards, masks, fins, snorkels, etc.
  • Ensure knowledge of unsafe water conditions such as rip tides and dangerous wildlife is up to date.

Certification Process Varies

No matter the type of certification, being a lifeguard requires you to complete a strict testing process. The process can vary depending on location, but in general, the certification for beachfront lifeguarding is more strenuous than pool and lake lifeguarding. To be certified in pool and lake lifeguarding:

You must be able to swim 300 yards without stopping according to the following guide:

  • Freestyle (or front crawl) for 100 yards.
  • Breaststroke for 100 yards.
  • Either Freestyle or Breaststroke for 100 yards.

For information on how many lengths of a pool that is, see our article How Many Swimming Laps are in One Mile?

You must also be able to complete the brick test, or submerged object retrieval test, which consists of the following:

  • Start in the water without goggles.
  • Swim for about 20 yards to where a 10-pound brick or some other weight has been deposited.
  • Surface dive to retrieve the brick.
  • Swim back to where you began, keeping the weight above water.
  • Exit the pool without using the steps or ladder.

Lastly, you must be able to tread water for 2 minutes.

To be certified in beachfront lifeguarding:

You must perform a long-distance swim in the ocean or other surf-environment, generally 500 meters in 10 minutes.

You must also be able to complete the brick test, which consists of the following:

  • Start in the water without goggles.
  • Swim to where a 10-pound brick or some other weight has been deposited.
  • Surface dive to retrieve this brick.
  • Swim back to where you began, keeping the weight above water.

Lastly, you will have to perform a timed short-distance and long-distance run on land. The short-distance run is likely around a quarter mile and the long-distance run could be a full mile.

Rescues are More Frequent on the Beachfront

While this a generality, rescues tend to be more frequent for beachfront lifeguards than for those working at pools or lakes. Having more rescues can be a positive, as it means that there is more “action for the lifeguard to participate in. But, it can also be a great source of stress, as it means that lives are in danger more often than they would be otherwise.

Plus, rescues on a beachfront are, by nature, more challenging and harder to perform than those in a pool or lake. 

Overall, beachfront lifeguarding is more strenuous and rigorous than that of pool and lake lifeguarding. However, it can also be rewarding, if you want to have more rescues and save more lives. At the end of the day, it comes to do your own personal preferences and goals for the job.
 

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