‘You can never take a day for granted and you have to be the best person you possibly can be.’
“For most people around here, on Long Island and Massapequa in general, we spend our summers at the beach. It’s a way for us to be there all day, every day. I started lifeguarding when I was 16 at Bethpage Pool. The pool is a lot calmer in the sense that you’re basically just watching flat water for a while, but there are a lot more things going on with families outside of the pool.
“You’re watching to make sure that kids are staying with their parents, they aren’t running and getting hurt, because we do First Aid, too. At the ocean, you’re obviously watching a lot more and with the waves and everything. Some days there are huge waves with rip currents and people don’t even realize how scary the water gets. There is a lot more to carry. You have a couple of other lifeguards working with you too when you’re on the stand and watching the water in case you have to make a rescue.
“There is a lot more ground to cover at the beach. You’re never by yourself and it’s a whole team thing. I think it is one of the best summer jobs you can have. My dad got into it because he always grew up living to surf and being at the beach in general. He’s a teacher also, so once he started teaching, he figured it was something good to do during the summer.
I think there’s a fear instilled in knowing that someone’s life is in your hands in that sense. That is literally in the name of the position—you are guarding somebody’s life.
“There are a lot of things that happen at the beach and unfortunately, we’ve had some people that work there who passed away. Everybody that works there, we’re kind of like a close-knit family, so we’re there for each other. In general, there’s a lot of scary situations.
“I feel like it just comes with the job. I think we’re very good in the sense that we know how to handle things and do a good job. You can never take a day for granted and you have to be the best person you possibly can be. I think being a lifeguard helps you develop that responsibility within yourself and it carries over to other things you do.
“I think there’s a fear instilled in knowing that someone’s life is in your hands in that sense. Ultimately, your job is to make sure that everybody is safe and that your community is in a safe environment. That is literally in the name of the position—you are guarding somebody’s life.”
Interviewed by Dave Gil de Rubio