Working 9:00 to 5:00 under the hot summer sun on the beaches of Cape Cod; what a way to make a living. Being a lifeguard for the Town of Barnstable, or T.O.B. as its known among employees, is in fact one of the best summer jobs you can have. I often find myself sitting in the tower, twirling my whistle and feeling grateful to be at work.
This is not to say that lifeguarding is an easy, or stress free profession. While patrons regularly see us sitting in the awning-covered towers surveying the water, they rarely see us running miles on the beach, going for long swims or paddles out to the can a half mile from shore, practicing rescue techniques, or taking written exams, all of which we do weekly at 7:30 A.M. to stay sharp. In addition to these weekly drills and exercises, T.O.B.lifeguards are required to work out during their breaks a minimum of three days a week.
Sitting on the tower is no rest either. We have to remain hyper vigilant watching the water because beach supervisors often plan “mock rescues” in which an of duty lifeguards slips into the water undetected and pretends to have a medical emergency. Mocks are used to test how quickly and effectively lifeguards recognize and respond to an emergency and are graded by the supervisor. Remaining highly attentive while simultaneously having to deal with unruly patrons makes the job challenging, but it also develops accountability, good communication skills, and discipline.