I was hired by the San Diego Lifeguard Service [in
Southern California] as a beach lifeguard in 1979. I spent
a summer on Mission Bay, which is as placid as tidal bays
can be, although sometimes terrifying for a lifeguard to
safeguard considering the size of the crowds and the
drop-off, which varied with the tide. A momentary lapse in
concentration could be deadly.
Moving to the oceanfront the following summer was a
happy occasion. The lifeguarding was much different, with
most rescues from rip currents and surf action, as opposed
to drop-offs. And the view of the ocean beat Mission Bay. I
eventually found myself at La Jolla Shores beach, where I
spent several summers.
Early on, I was occasionally assigned for a day or two
to Black?s Beach, a nude beach to the north of La
Jolla Shores, at the foot of a 300 foot cliff. This beach
was interesting for a number of reasons, aside from the
nudity. In addition to rescuing swimmers and surfers,
lifeguards rescued people stuck on the cliffs, by
rappelling from the top. Not the role one would typically
expect of a lifeguard, but quite similar to my winter job
ski patrolling at Vail, where a responsibility was using
similar equipment to rescue skiers from stopped chairlifts
and the gondola.
Black?s Beach then and still today
was pretty primitive. No restrooms. No phones
(and this was before mobile phones). No water, except what
you brought. Backup was a long time coming. One of the most
significant responsibilities was intervening in disputes
over photography of unwilling subjects. (Photographing
people in a public setting is not unlawful.)
One weekend day, while assigned to Black?s
Beach, the more experienced lifeguards with me suddenly
began murmuring that the boss was coming. In fact, this was
the lifeguard lieutenant in charge of all of La Jolla, thus
three ranks above me. I hadn?t met him and
certainly wanted to come across well. I kept my eyes glued
to the water, until he introduced himself. I turned to say
hello and shake his hand and noticed, to my great surprise,
that he was completely nude. It was his day off and he
apparently liked Black?s Beach for all it
I was by this time used to talking to nude people of all
types and acting as if nothing was unusual. Indeed, most
had the same questions and requests of clothed people on
the other beaches. But this was a bit different. I spoke
with him briefly, always keeping an eye on the water. Then
he said, ?I?d like to introduce you to my
wife.? I turned and said hello. My peripheral
vision led me to realize that she too was completely nude,
but I locked in on her eyes, shook her hand, and turned my
attention back to the water.
And that?s how I met the boss and his wife.
B. Chris Brewster, president, United States
I learned to swim at the local YWCA. The Aquatics
Director and head instructor was ?Teach?
Nelson who was an icon in Illinois and Indiana aquatics.
There was also a hot shot springboard diver and swimmer who
practiced (showed off) at the YWCA. Little did I know then
that this was the beginning of my Aquatic career and that
15 years later ?Teach? would become my
mother-in-law and mentor and that show-off diver would
become my husband.
In 1969, I entered the family business which allowed my
husband and I to raise our three wonderful children
together, around the pool, and daily involved in swimming.
In 1972, my husband and I qualified to be swimming
officials at the 1972 Olympic Trials in Chicago. This
remarkable week gave us the idea we wanted to build our own
aquatic center. Of course back then we just called it a
pool for our swim team and a pool for the swimming
We built it and soon realized that swimming pools could
become Aquatic Fitness Centers with the proper programming.
Soon I expanded my horizons from a swim coach and
learn-to-swim instructor to ?Vertical
Aquatics.? We became involved with another
passionate group of individuals and I met another mentor
[an aquatic therapy expert] named Ruth Sova. We began
offering aquatic exercise programs for our community that
helped support our aquatic fitness center. In 1996, we
formed Water Way Therapy, an outpatient aquatic therapy
business. In our years in the business, we have been
fortunate to work with all ages and stages of people in our
place of business.
In 2004, I became the Aquatic Programs Specialist for
USA Swimming and began sharing the story of our journey
with others who have a passion for aquatics. There have
been many passionate people who helped lead us through many
successful years, but it all started with a
?swimming instructor? at a local Y.
Sue Nelson, Aquatic Program Specialist, USA
I got my start in aquatics/water safety at
Murray?s Laurel Lake, a manmade beach in Montvale,
N.J. An apple farmer created it and although he owned the
lake, he didn?t know how to swim. But he inherently
understood two of the fundamentals of running a successful
aquatics facility: Fun and safety.
In many ways, Mr. Frank Murray was ahead of his time.
Before there were industry standards, he had clear depth
markers, warning signage posted directly in the water and
hourly announcements to remind parents to watch their
children. He put playground slides in the water and had a
diving board, rafts and lots of fountains for kids to play
The lake is gone now, but the things I learned have
stayed with me to this day.
Tom Griffiths, director of the Aquatics and
Safety Office for Athletics, Penn State University, State
College, Pa., and founder, Aquatics Safety Research