What a fun week. This was the last week of the junior lifeguard program and it ended with a bang. Six-weeks of fun and education that included lifeguard training, CPR and first aid, lifesaving sport, marine ecology, sports nutrition and leadership and team building skills finished off with all kinds of good stuff.
On July 19, a bunch of children jumped in our three vans, and we headed south to Matagorda beach. This is something of a recent tradition at the end of the junior guard program. Parents and families were invited. Matagorda is a beautiful, empty beach. We set up shade canopies, unloaded the boards and hit the water.
It was fun to surf with our next generation of lifeguards. We took a break for hot dogs and s’mores, played soccer and hit the water again. My daughter Kai, who is 6 now, followed the girls around and got to tandem surf with her favorite “big girl,” Ellie Cherryhomes, which made her week. Ellie also is a superstar athlete who dominates in the junior guard competitions, as well as being probably the nicest 15-year-old in the world, so dad was very pleased for Kai to have such a great role model.
As good as that was, my favorite part was seeing the daughter of junior guard Director Penny Shull, 22-month-old Maddilynn “Maddi,” catch the first wave of her life on a boogie board with mom holding her tightly. That’s the biggest smile I’ve probably ever seen on a baby, and I think we just hooked another one into the surf-lifeguard lifestyle.
Last Friday was the final day of the camp, and Penny and her amazing staff organized a party with an inflatable slip and slide, boxing ring and moon walk. I still haven’t figured out how in six short weeks our staff trains the junior guards to be able to eat so much pizza and jump up and down for so long without throwing up.
Saturday was “Beach Fest,” which is the Lifeguard and Junior Lifeguard Gulf Coast regional beach competition. The first event started at 7:45 a.m., and the competition finally wrapped up around 6 p.m. We held it at Stewart Beach, just down from a huge Association of Volleyball Professionals tournament.
Eighty competitors and lots of family, food and friends meant lots of action. There were some great moments, but none better than watching 11-year-old George Reinmiller jump up while being treated for a huge shiner on his eye where he was hit by a rescue can. His next event was being marshaled and he was not going to miss it — no matter how much pain he was in. He was the high scorer for the 10- and 11-year-old age group.
He’s another one we’d love to get into the lifeguard program when he’s old enough. I can’t imagine anything stopping him from getting to someone in trouble in the water. I certainly wouldn’t mind someone with that kind of drive and single-mindedness backing me up on a tough rescue.
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.