Before You Grow Up: Be An Ocean Lifeguard

There are only a few carefree summers in your life. Don’t waste them interning at law firms—opt for one of these adventure-packed seasonal gigs instead.

Sep 16, 2013
Outside Magazine
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   Photo: Paul Giamou

Your office is the beach, your uniform a pair of boardshorts, and you could rescue dozens of people a season. According to 30-year veteran Southern California lifeguard Lance Dempsey, “On a busy week-end, there might be 2,000 people in front of your tower.”

Prereqs: It’s far tougher to get a glamorous ocean job than a gig at the local country club—strong swimmers and lifelong surfers have an advantage in competitive places like California, North Carolina, and Florida.

How to Break In: California county and state agencies will hire 16-year-olds if they can pass the swim test. But those tests often occur in February. In a Speedo. The first 40 or 80 people to cross the line get to the interview phase. You’ll line up for the swim test with guys wearing UCLA and Stanford swim-team hoodies.

Pay: In Los Angeles, the hourly wage is $18, with bonuses for bilingualism and for EMT certification in L.A. County; $11.25 per hour in North Carolina.

Romance Potential: The view can be pretty good from the lifeguard tower, but as far as getting a phone number, “You have to play it pretty cool,” says Dempsey. State-beach lifeguards aren’t supposed to leave the tower unless they are making a rescue.

Résumé Skills: CPR and emergency first aid, calm under pressure, killer tan.

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