Unique surf contest in San Clemente brings team format for lifeguards, junior guards
Surfing is typically an individual sport — but a new contest in San Clemente brought a fun twist with a team format to the waves.
The event, held on the north side of the pier on Sunday, Aug. 26, brought 32 lifeguards and junior lifeguards together to compete in teams of four. The older, more experienced guards, acted as team captains and pulled names out of a hat to determine their teammates.
“We wanted something to integrate the lifeguards and junior lifeguards together,” said San Clemente Marine Safety Lt. Rod Mellott. “We thought ‘a surf contest kind of matches that.’”
It seemed the concept was a popular one — all the slots were filled within 36 minutes of registration opening up, with a waiting list of 40 junior guards in just an hour.
“It was a hit,” Mellott said.
With waves in the 2-foot range and the ocean temperature lingering in the mid-70s, beach conditions couldn’t have turned out better, organizers said.
“It’s absolutely perfect. There’s nothing better than to have a nice day in the sun, with warm water, and the waves are perfect size for all the junior lifeguards to compete on an even level,” said Tyler Borchard, board member for the San Clemente Lifeguard and Junior Lifeguard Foundation.
The event was a way to bring the community out, enjoy a day in the sun, and also get exposure for the foundation.
“We strongly encourage any kid who lives in San Clemente to join the junior lifeguard program, to be exposed to the ocean in supervised conditions and to learn ocean safety at a young age,” Borchard said. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to learn ocean safety so when they come down on their own, they have the knowledge and experience.”
That was the best part of the program for Kelly Burke, whose son Quinn, 10, did three sessions of junior guards this summer. He’s following in the footsteps of his father Mike, a former San Clemente seasonal lifeguard, and uncle Eric, who was a full-time guard for several years.
“We’re more comfortable with him being at the beach,” Kelly Burke said. “We don’t have to have constant eyes on him — he knows his way around the water.”
Quinn already has his eyes on a career as a lifeguard.
“I just like saving people,” said Quinn, who just finished his second summer of junior guards. “If they need help, I would help them.”
Mellott said the event was meant to show that lifeguarding is all about teamwork.
“Being a lifeguard, a lot of people think you’re sitting in the lifeguard tower by yourself – but it takes a team,” he said. “Being a team, being a lifeguard and showing how you can do a surf contest as a team — it’s a perfect match.”
The foundation holds events and fundraisers throughout the year. Last week, former pro surfing champion Shaun Tomson came to town to speak to the junior guards. He offered guidance on decision-making and taught them how the ocean and surfing relate to life’s challenges.
On Sept. 16, the Gudauskas brothers — three pro surfers and former junior guards — will host Stoke-O-Rama, a fundraiser for the foundation that brings 100 local kids out to the beach to enjoy the waves. For more information, visit vans.com/stokeorama