• ELA

101+ Rules for the Rookie Lifeguard (As well as the rest of us)

Updated: May 28, 2019

Professional ocean lifeguarding is demanding and all eyes rest upon you when you sit atop the tower maintaining the appearance of lord and ruler of the beach. To ensure we all know what our role as a lifeguard is (and to keep it fun) the Encinitas Lifesaving Association provides you with the unabridged 101+ Rules for any age lifegaurd...

1. Let the tool do the work, but keep in mind you mind the tool.

2. Young lifeguard know the rules. Old lifeguards know the exceptions.

3. Be like a duck, Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath. – Michael Caine

4. Twenty-five years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did. – Mark Twain

5. Don’t make a scene and never disrespect another lifeguard in public.

6. Two hands. Two tools.

7. Never claim to be what you are not. Time reveals all things.

8. If you don’t know what you are doing, say so.

9. When you leave the tower, you leave as if a life depended on it.

10. Suck it up

11. Don’t worry if you are made fun of. Worry when they don’t say anything at all.

12. Never turn your back to the water.

13. When things go wrong, don’t go with them. – Elvis Presley

14. Always show up to work at least a half-hour early. There is no better gift you can give to a person in trouble.

15. Never trust the swim fins in the towers. Bring your own.

16. Don’t gloat. Don’t brag. Your actions will do it for you.

17. Caffeine is your friend.

18. Don’t be so eager to get promoted. The time you spend as a tower jockey will be the most fun you have in your life.

19. Maintain a healthy fear of the ocean and the job.

20. Stay committed to being a life-long student of the ocean and your profession.

21. I not only use the brains I have, but all that I can borrow. – Woodrow Wilson

22. Share your ideas and observations. You never know; it could save someone’s life.

23. Learn to cook a minimum of two great meals for your fellow professionals.

24. One lifeguard sticker on your car is enough.

25. One of the best ways to learn is to teach – even if it is teaching what you just learned.

26. If you are going down. Go down fighting.

27. Learn how to surf. Don’t be that person.

28. Offer to help before you are asked.

29. The phone, the doorbell, and the call for help is always for you.

30. Just because you have the uniform doesn’t make you a lifeguard. It just makes you a government employee. Your peers will let you know when you become a lifeguard.

31. When spending money, neoprene is always worth the investment.

32. If you don’t have kids, Christmas is simply another day. Don’t ask for the day off.

33. The true measure of a successful rescue is returning to shore alive and

with a victim in your tube.

34. Introduce yourself. Don’t be offended when you are not remembered. You are not memorable – yet.

35. No matter where you go, always take the stairs.

36. Don’t simply show off. Attempt to leave a positive impression.

37. When using a paddleboard, it is about getting to the victim with the board. Strength is good, finesse is better.

38. The ocean is dynamic and ever-changing, which means no rescue is ever exactly the same.

39. Don’t wear your lifeguard T-shirt to the gym unless you plan on sitting towers at the Jacuzzi or providing mouth-to-mouth to the old guy on the treadmill.

40. Lifeguard towers are for lifeguarding. Turn off the phone and watch the water.

41. Don’t ever go cheap on coffee you offer to the permanent staff.

42. Courage is not the lack of fear, it is acting in spite of it. – Mark Twain

43. You are what you do. Not what you say.

44. One of the most difficult and dangerous things you do as a lifeguard is backing up a truck (Driving ain’t too easy either…)

45. The common sense approach is usually the best way.

46. Bodysurf as much as possible. If you can’t make an educated guess as to how a wave will perform under the smallest conditions, you are putting yourself in danger when it is big.

47. Shaving your body is not cool. It’s a good way to contract MRSA.

48. When you open your tower, always remember you are now responsible for every person on the beach

49. When you are approved to drive the lifeguard truck, always clear the truck before movement, have another lifeguard assist you when backing, and never put the vehicle in a position where you have to turn to the right.

50. Slow is pro. Slow is smooth. And smooth is fast. Take that first moment to breathe.

51. Have multiple ways of doing one task. You may need to improvise in this job.

52. Lifeguard Math – You are either a positive or you are a negative. You add to our team or you steal from it. There is no neutral.

53. Show us. Don’t tell us.

54. Always have a buoy and a pair of fins. Otherwise you become the


55. If you don’t know on a personal level, the name is always, “sir” or “ma’am.” We, and more importantly your patients, are not your “dudes,” “bro’s,” or “sweety.”

56. You have two ears and one mouth, which means you should listen twice as much as you speak.

57. Prevention is the public’s best protection.

58. “Good enough” isn’t it.

59. When aiming for perfection, you find it is a moving target. Train to fight what you fear. Know luck is always part of the equation.

60. The barreled chest and gray hair on the older lifeguards are usually a badge of honor. Never mistake it for age. Watch, listen and learn what they didn’t teach you at the academy.

61. Knowing how to do something is knowledge. Knowing why we do it is wisdom.

62. If you are the only one sitting the job ain’t done.

63. The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men. –Henry David Thoreau.

64. Keep your head on a swivel and never take your eyes off the water. If you do you disrespecting everyone who carries the title of “lifeguard.”

65. If it were easy or you could learn it from books, anyone could do it.

66. Compassion is not a page in your protocol book. It comes from within you. As lifeguards and EMTs, we must have and never lose our sense of compassion for the sick, the injured, and the ones who call for no apparent reason.

67. You can wish a rip current away, but the reality is swimmers will still find it.

68. The mind is like a parachute; it only works when it is open.

69. Economically you cannot be a lifeguard for a living. You are a lifeguard for life.

70. We get paid to workout. Run-Swim-Run and repeat. Enjoy being a professional athlete.

71. Today could be the day. Are you prepared?

72. Better to have your equipment fail at the beginning of shift during check-out than at the scene of an emergency.

73. Lifeguarding is really about connection, taking care of each other, heart and action – Sharon Siskin

74. When in doubt. Go out!

75. Always be the last one to close your tower

76. Everything can dry out. Nothing should stop breathing.

77. What is your duty? Whatever the conditions and the day demand.

78. If you can see the rear end of your supervisor, you are in the wrong place.

79. If you didn’t learn anything today, you time as a lifeguard is at an end.

80. All bleeding stops… eventually.

81. If you find yourself underwater on a dive response wondering where your partner is, you can be rest assured your partner is wondering where the heck you are. Stick together and stick to the plan.

82. When driving Code-3 assume you are invisible and no one is able to see the big red truck with lights coming at them. Because they don’t.

83. Don’t tell war stories to non-lifeguards. No one thinks it is as exciting as you do and they won’t get it.

84. Just because you are excited, doesn’t mean your dispatcher is deaf. – a dispatcher

85. All bleeding stops eventually…

86. Be prepared and accepting of laughing at one’s self.

87. Never criticize a rescue unless you were part of it.

88. Attend lifeguard conferences. You will find your Department is not the center of the universe and there are others who are already doing it smarter and better than you are.

89. “The rip stopped pulling” and “no one is in trouble anymore” are poor excuses for why you are still dry.

90. When entering a new tower for the first time, keep your mouth shut, work hard, and pay attention. Because, everyone is paying attention to you.

91. Bravery is performing a task or action without thinking about the consequences. Courage is performing the same task or action knowing full well what the results are going to be, but performing it anyway.

92. When we go into the water it will be packed with people who could become in trouble, when we come out there better be no one in the water.

93. Good and bad, all form what becomes your character.

94. Seek out the busiest towers and the best lifeguards.

95. Never leave your buoy in the sand.

96. Think like a non-swimmer and plan like a rescuer.

97. Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong.

98. Just because you are certified doesn’t mean you are qualified.

99. Practice does not make perfect, nor is it meant to. Practice simply increases your repertoire of ways to recover from your mistakes.

100. Remember, if you don’t go get it, it will probably go down.

101. Training hard makes rescuing easier.

To read the rest of the "rules" visit us on Encinitas Lifesaving Association Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of E*Trade
Whether newbie or veteran, first year or twentieth we all need rules to live by

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