It’s like Groundhog Day. We are in a closed loop resulting in a perpetual state of Fourth of July weekend.
We have never really seen crowds like this year. Starting in March, weekdays seem like weekends, weekends like holidays and holidays like well . something new. We’re working under a new paradigm. We boosted our numbers of guards on the beach in the spring and are at full strength through the summer. Even at full strength, we’re stretched to meet the need.
Part of the equation is, no doubt, related to economy and gas prices. The current state of tourism in Mexico probably adds to it. But the reality is that Galveston is coming into its own. We have everything, so there’s something for everyone. Lots of really high-quality attractions for both the day visitor to those who want the full-service hotel experience and everyone in between. And, most importantly, our No. 1 attraction — a lot of beach.
But for all the groups that work the beach, this translates into one thing. How do we handle the millions of visitors who visit those beaches? Working long hours in the heat while dealing with the small percentage of people who are not at their best can be trying, to say the least. But helping people in crisis has its own rewards, even if those rewards seem to be somewhat ethereal at times.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my lifeguard truck on Stewart Beach. There are more people in the water in front of each tower than can be counted. It’s just after 3 p.m., and we’re starting to get our typical wave of lost kids. The report that just came over the radio was the 23rd of the day and usually the big wave hits around 5 p.m. when the umbrellas get picked up and people realize they haven’t seen their kids for a while, so we’ll see many more.
Late afternoon is usually when we deal with the majority of beach emergencies as well. The guards have been moving people from the rip currents by the piers all day, and we’ve already had a number of minor medical calls. Although we started at 7:30 a.m., we’ve still got a long, long way to go.
But a small boy just walked by my truck holding his dad’s hand and bouncing around excitedly. He is about 4 with snazzy little tennis shoes, flowery shorts, brown skin and curly black hair. He’s holding a brand-new yellow pail like it was made of gold. He may or may not end up under our “lost child tent” by the end of the day. He may run up to the lifeguard tower crying because he got stung by a jellyfish. Or, hopefully, he may just go home with some memories of a great day with his parents that he carries with him until he’s an old man. Whatever happens, our hope is that he’ll remember the lifeguards were there to make sure he got home safely.
Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.