Jax Beach lifeguards host regional competition

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue is celebrating 100 years as part of the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps, and to help celebrate the milestone, lifeguards are hosting an annual regional competition.

Thousands are expected to turn out this week to see who has the fittest lifeguards in the region.

The competition is for the South Atlantic region, which includes Virginia Beach to Flagler Beach, and about 250 lifeguards from up and down the coast are competing.

Last year the Jacksonville Beach lifeguards took the title, so they're going to see if they can hold on to that championship again this year.

IMAGES: Lifeguard competition |

"One beach might be doing something completely different, so it gets us all together and kind of reviews new techniques and ways to get people out of the water," said Capt. Thomas Wright, of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue.

The teams compete in all kinds of events involving running, surfing, swimming and paddle boarding.

"You want the fittest lifeguards on the beach, you want the strongest and fittest and most powerful to come out and save you if you get into trouble," Wright said.

One of the events is called the landline rescue. It's one of the oldest ways to save people. The victim in distress is already out in the ocean at a flag, and the whistle is blown, the lifeguard swims out to him using an orange buoy. When he gets to the victim, the victim raises his arm and then the two other lifeguards on the beach use the line to pull him in.

"I believe the landline developed when they used to use ropes and a gun that shot a rope out to the ships, and then they would haul people in off a shipwreck back to shore," Lt. Rob Emahiser said.

Another event was the board rescue.

The competition finds the fittest in the region and most importantly teaches lifeguards and the public life-saving lessons.

"It raises awareness of beach safety, draws a lot of crowds," lifeguard Ben Hedstrom said. "We're able to explain to them what a run-out is."