For several reasons — college graduation, other job opportunities, etc. — this year’s Compo Beach lifeguard crew is younger than usual. Of the 3 dozen guards (about 60% from Westport), almost all are between 16 and 21 years old.
But it’s a hugely important job. Lives are at risk. Standards can’t be lowered.
Compo lifeguards do rescue training throughout the summer. Being young and outside, they like to keep fit.
This year, those 2 elements are one. Waterfront co-directors Heidi List Murphy and Danilo Sierra have designed a series of “rescue workouts.”
And they’ve added the element of competition.
Every day at high tide — except, of course, when the beach is closed due to a sewage leak 🙁 — the guards form teams. They sprint along the sand, swim, and head out on boards to the buoys and back.
Every guard is timed. They’re allowed to choose their teams, so there’s pressure to have good scores.
At the end of every day, there’s a debriefing meeting. The rescue workout is always part of the discussion.
The workouts increase confidence and raise morale, Sierra says.
“This is a teaching beach,” Murphy notes. “Guards are constantly learning. They like the hands-on part of this, and the competition.”
Fortunately, the Compo guards have not had to rescue anyone — for real — this year.
Last year, there was one rescue. It came in the final 4 hours of the last day guards were on duty for the summer.
“It can happen any time,” Murphy notes. “We have to be ready.”
Thanks in part to the rescue workouts — and constant supervision and education — they will be.