A day at the beach – For a lifeguard, it's more work than you’d think


Lifeguard Alicia Flatt stands on the dock at Kent's Lake Meridian Park July 21 as she continuously scans to make sure patrons are following the rules and staying safe.

Lifeguard Alicia Flatt stands on the dock at Kent's Lake Meridian Park July 21 as she continuously scans to make sure patrons are following the rules and staying safe.

With the sun shining as much as it has this summer, the view from the lifeguard chair at Lake Meridian can be pretty crowded.

“On hot days, there’s not a lot of downtime,” said Annie Saurwein, one of the 15 guards who staff the chairs at the lakefront city beach.

“There’s times when you’re picking up your megaphone every 10 seconds to talk to kids,” agreed fellow guard Alicia Flatt.

But as far as summer jobs go, lifeguarding at one of the local sunspots sure isn’t a bad way to make money, especially for a pair of 19-year-old swimmers like Saurwein and Flatt, who have been guarding in the summers for the past four and two years, respectively.

A lifeguard’s day begins at 10:30 each morning, with set-up of the beach, such as placing signs and equipment, and raking the beach to smooth the surface. At 11 a.m., the beach opens to the public.

Over the course of multiple shifts in multiple places along the lakeshore, lifeguards scan the water, providing park counts of the number of people in view, and watching for toddlers along the shore and weaker swimmers who might get in trouble in the water.

“We’re supposed to do a full scan of our area every 10 seconds,” Flatt said.

And while staffing goes up on hotter days, time spent in the chair can still be tiring.

“You’re still doing a lot of work but there’s a lot of backup,” Saurwein said.

“In weather like this, you’ll be up on the stand many times during the day,” said Flatt.

Each lifeguard is certified by the Red Cross, by taking a 40-hour class that includes swimming, picking bricks off the bottom of the pool at three different depths and practicing multiple rescues.

Both of the guards say they have had to use their training, though both declined to discuss specifics.

“We’re really trained to deal with these emergencies, so it’s not really an issue,” Flatt said.

Stressful as a day in the chair can sometimes be, both Flatt and Saurwein admitted that compared to other summer jobs, they’ve got it pretty good.

“I love being active and I love being in the water,” said Flatt. “You’re not just pushing papers all day; you’re helping people.”

“It’s nice to get to enjoy the beautiful summer weather,” Saurwein agreed, adding, “You do really get to help the community and participate in the community.”

While Flatt admitted it can sometimes be like babysitting, for the most part, the pair really enjoy their summer jobs.

But of course, it’s not all fun and games.

So what is the worst part of being a lifeguard at lake Meridian?

“Um ... sunburn?” asked Saurwein, as the pair laughed together.

This is the first of a series on teen summer jobs. If you’d like to be profiled in your summer job - whatever it is - contact Brian Beckley at 253-437-6012 or e-mail bbeckley@kentnews.us.

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