Lifeguards needed in area beaches for busy summer season

Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue to hold orientation Sunday for anyone interested

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - For any teenagers looking for a summer job, now is their chance to become a lifeguard.

Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue will hold an orientation Sunday for anyone interested.

Lifeguards are having a hard time recruiting guards this year, and need to at least double their numbers before the busy season at Jacksonville Beach.

There has been lifeguards in Jacksonville Bach since 1912, following the drowning of a prominent citizen. Two years later, the American National Red Cross charted Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue as the first Volunteer Life Saving Corps in the county. It's now celebrated more than 100 years of tradition and uninterrupted volunteer service to saving lives at Jacksonville Beach. 

It's not only the first, but Jacksonville Beach is the last volunteer Life Saving Corps in the United States. In the world, only Australia operates similarly. 

The 150 hours of training are unpaid, then the lifeguards start out at $10.63 an hour. They volunteer their time Sundays and holidays, but many say these are some of the best years of their lives. 

“You get to surf. You get to work out. You get to be at the beach all day. When you’re up on tower, you’re in charge of that water, and it’s a good feeling to just be up there and know you’re watching everybody," said Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue Lt. Eli Phillips. 

The training is a perfect transition into the medical field, and most many other careers. Plus, lifeguards get to live at the icon of Jacksonville Beach for free year-round. 

"For free rent and oceanfront, you think a lot more people would be interested in it," Phillips said. 

Phillips on Tuesday gave News4Jax a behind-the-scenes look inside the iconic lifeguard station at 2 Oceanfront North.

"We've got a workout room where we've got a lot of weights and stuff. In there is all the communications people -- answering the phone, talking on the radio," Phillips pointed out. "In here, (there's) all the old uniforms made of wool." 

Living in the Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station has even been compared to living in a fraternity or sorority house.

"You've got lots of roommates and your parents aren't here," Phillips said. 

New recruit, 16-year-old Elan Nicol, was on tower watch Tuesday. 

"(It's) definitely one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, personally, because of how hard it was," Nicol said.

Since its inception, lifeguards in Jacksonville Beach have saved more than 1,500 lives and logged 1.3 million volunteer hours.

"It makes you a better lifeguard when you're doing it out of the goodness of your own heart and not just to make money, but to support your community and do something good for other people," Phillips said. 

Sunday's orientation will begin at 9 a.m. at the Jacksonville Beach lifeguard station. People interested in becoming a lifeguard can ask questions and learn what it's like to be one of Jacksonville's finest heroes, protecting people at the beach as well as enjoying it during their time off. 

St. Johns County Fire Rescue's Marine Rescue is also still looking for a few more lifeguards to help protect the county's beaches this summer. For anyone looking for a summer job opportunity, there will be a final orientation meeting from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday at 366 A1A Beach Blvd. -- located next to Fire Station 7 and the St. Augustine Beach Pier. 

The meeting will include employment information that people need to help them become eligible for hire. For anyone who cannot attend the orientation, but is still interested in the employment process, email jearl@sjcfl.us.

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