If ever there was a good time to get caught up in an ocean rip current, it would be the weekend of July 22 when thousands of lifeguards will descend upon Seal Beach for the 2011 California Surf Lifesaving and California Junior Lifeguard Championships.
The contest originally slated to take place in San Diego County and then at Zuma Beach, landed in Seal Beach Wednesday.
The contest is a sight, said Seal Beach Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey.
“It’s not every day that you get to see a surf boat race,” he said.
During the two-day event, the northwest side of the Seal Beach pier will be packed with spectators and competitors from 30 lifeguard departments as they run, swim, and paddle for bragging rights as the state’s fastest and fittest lifeguards. About 3,000 lifeguards and junior lifeguards are expected to compete, including the reigning Ironwoman Champion, Alison Riddle from the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Division.
“All of the competition is designed to make you a better lifeguard,” said Riddle. “It kind of showcases your lifeguard skills and what kind of shape you are in, and it helps you to better understand the ocean.”
The tides, surf and wind change constantly, forcing lifeguards to study the conditions, added Riddle. Earning the highest score isn’t just about speed and strength, competitors also need to see things such as the best place to enter the water and the best route, she said.
While bragging rights do make for friendly competition, the event has a community spirit, added Riddle.
“It’s a real friendly environment,” she said. “Everyone has your back.”
Each year, the LA County Lifeguard Department is the team to beat, but if the Seal Beach lifeguards have a rivalry, it’s with the neighboring lifeguards from Long Beach, said Bailey.
Bragging rights are just better, when the rival is within bragging distance.
About 15 lifeguards from Seal Beach will compete this year, said Bailey. The city has hosted the event a few times before in 1997, 2008 and in 2009.
“Seal Beach has graciously agreed to host this year’s event,” Jay Butki, California Surf Lifesaving Association Competition Chair, said in a written statement. “It is a terrific location to again showcase the high-level of athleticism – the skill and stamina -- possessed by these current and future professional lifeguards from up and down the state representing 30 agencies.”
July’s regional contest is a prelude to the national competition to be held in August in Cape May, New Jersey.
The Seal Beach event will begin at 8 a.m. July 22 with junior lifeguard competitors and conclude Saturday with the lifeguard competition.