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 offered.
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 Lifesaving Association
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 lessons.
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 Swimming
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 in.
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 Group