Fernandina Beach Ocean Rescue still needs summer lifeguards

Applicants often struggle to complete pre-employment swim test

By Jonathan Stacey - Meteorologist

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - Many of you will be hitting the beach this weekend as temperatures inch toward 90 degrees, and this summer preview comes as Fernandina Beach Ocean Rescue is still searching for lifeguards.

"It's a physically demanding job," said Haynes Cavender, the Ocean Rescue Supervisor for the City of Fernandina Beach. 

Cavender faces the challenge of hiring 60 seasonal lifeguards to watch 13 miles of coastline in Nassau County this summer.

"We've had 85 people come through our organization this year and try to be lifeguards, and we have had about 40 who've passed our swim [test] and gone on," Cavender said . 

According to Cavender, many applicants have difficulty completing the mandatory pre-employment test, which includes a 500 meter swim in under 10 minutes. Those who make the cut are required to take an additional 58 hours of training before they can sit atop the lifeguard tower.

Lifeguards at Fernandina Beach typically work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. answering everything from medical calls to water responses.

"We prevent 99.9% of all drownings," Cavender said.

With a moderate to high risk for rip currents along our beaches this weekend, having trained and highly skilled lifeguards is a necessity.

"Our lifeguards continually work non-stop and we do hard work and training and that's that key in preventing drownings," Cavender said. 

Fernandina Beach officials say they currently have a enough guards to staff their beaches, but they still need to fill dozens of openings before summer.

Lifeguards make anywhere from $11- $18 dollars an hour. 

Click here to learn more about the open lifeguard positions with the City of Fernandina Beach.

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