Southern California’s Lifeguard Shortage – As Severe as it Gets!

Southern California is experiencing a major lifeguard shortage as well as the rest of the nation with alarms being sounded by aquatic associations and professionals including Lifeguard Chief Ed Castillo of Golden State Lifeguards, a Los Angeles based private lifeguard provider.

“This is the worst I have ever seen the lifeguard shortage in my sixteen years of operating Golden State Lifeguards”, says Chief Castillo

The word among industry professionals is that the worst is yet to come!

The main cause contributing to the lifeguard shortage can be attributed to the 2020 coronavirus lockdowns which forced the cancelation of certification courses for many and as a result those who needed to recertify could not do so which is a requirement as per American Red Cross. New lifeguard candidates were not able to get certified as well which is now contributing to the nationwide lifeguard shortage.

Normally across the nation many of the top lifeguard training centers will certify up to 300,000 per year to be lifeguards. In 2020 there were very few new trainees and in 2021 it is estimated that there was only 50% of normal trainees being put through. Returning to normal would require at least double the amount of lifeguards being trained/recruited.

What happened to the lifeguards who needed to recertify and those who wanted to be lifeguards? Many found other jobs while pools were closed and have not looked back. They have been displaced and lost in the process.

Now that the nation has opened up and most of the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, many pools and beaches are struggling to fill positions. It is estimated that a third of the pools and beaches will be closed due to staffing shortages especially in August/September when many start returning to school. This is very unfortunate as many kids look forward to spending time in the nearby community pool  or beach for summer fun.

The lifeguard shortage is nothing new as many have been watching this trend including Chief Castillo for the last 5 to 10 years or so. Each year it has gotten progressively worse however the pandemic lockdowns did not help but actually worsened the problem.

The lifeguard boom was extremely robust when the hit TV show “Baywatch” was being produced. Everyone wanted to be a lifeguard and Baywatch did for lifeguarding what “Emergency” did for paramedics. Once those shows went off the air, interest for the job began to wane.

Many are trying to come up with solutions and one idea is to hire retirees willing to patrol beaches and standby at pools provided they can prove their swimming skills. Some of the best ocean lifeguards tend be older and should be an example to those who want to try their hand at ocean lifeguarding.

Some other solutions are to raise lifeguard pay and offer paid training to new candidates.

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