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Lifeguards train ahead of bathing season

The young men and women who will comprise of the lifeguards charged with keeping residents and visitors safe on Gibraltar’s beaches and pools have been selected for summer 2021.

Sitting in the Department of Environment office is Eddie Asquez who has been responsible for taking the young adults through their paces, encouraging them along the way when necessary.

Across the desk from him sits 17 year old Elias Juel Saleh who listens with anticipation as Mr Asquez tells him how he did on the recent training course held at Sandy Bay.

“There has been a significant improvement in your times since you first started with us,” he said.

“You needed to get water fit again.”

“You started training with us, your commitment was 100%, attitude fantastic and your focus on training when you came was excellent.”

He continued to tell him about the times he achieved tasks such as 400m, or open water swim in before finally saying.

“You performed extremely well in the pool and equally well on the beach so we were all very happy with your performance overall. Particularly your attitude against the whole thing,” he said.

“So I am glad to say you have been successful and you have been selected to do the beach lifeguard course, congratulations.”

A wide smile broke out on both their faces and with pure delight Elias thanked his new boss.

“This is very exciting,” he told the Chronicle.

“I get a summer job which is an experience especially as I plan to do sports and exercise science and go into physiotherapy and learn more about the body so going to do a more functional course with health and safety is very exciting for me,” he said.

He has been a beachgoer all his life and used to swim three times a week in a swimming squad, he returned to the sport when he decided to wanted to become a lifeguard. He was aware he needed to improve his fitness especially in the water.

“When I first did the swim [as part of the training] I did it in 13 or 14 minutes, horrible. But now I did it in 6minutes 29seconds,” he said.

“The training was a lot harder than I first expected but I caught up and it became easier and easier and a lot more manageable for me so I started pushing myself more and therefore became faster.”

He is most looking forward to working Sandy Bay beach as it is his favourite beach on the Rock.

Also finding out he had a summer job was Ethan Bocarisa, 16, is excited to start his first job having been attracted to the position of lifeguard for a while.

“From always going to the beach I have been looking after lifeguards because they are always there helping out the community and I would like to fill out that role. I have friends who are lifeguards and a cousin as well so really I have always been grown up with my friends telling me it is an amazing experience,” he said.

Ethan usually plays water polo which he believes will help him in his new role.

“When I went there and I had the time trial and seeing how my swimming was improving and on the final day it was good and I did 7minutes 19 in the 400m swim,” he said.

He is looking forward to the challenges working the beach will bring as it is a larger space with changing water conditions.

Eastern Beach, the north end, is the beach he is most looking forward to patrolling.

“Because I have my family there and they can be proud of me when they see me,” he said.

One of the new pool lifeguards that was hired is Kelsey Corneilo, 16, and is pleased she has her new job because last year when he friends were doing it she was too young.

“Seeing all of them do it seemed really fun and it made me want to be part of it. But, there is also a lot of responsibility and being up there in the post was something I wanted to do,” she said. Her friends will also be patrolling with her this year.

She is used to be on the water as she rows and rows every day for three years.

GASA is the pool she is most looking forward to working because the area is more open there is the park and a variety of people. When she leaves the Rock for university in the UK she hopes to study social work and believes that working with the public in the capacity of a lifeguard will help her with this career.

Ethan Borge,18, also found out he scored a summer job on the beach looking after everyone. It has been a long time coming for Ethan as last year he trained for the position but unfortunately was unable to get the swim times required that would allow him to pass the course. This year, he focused and trained harder and was delighted to get the job having completed the 400m in 6minutes 39 seconds.

“I got told I had the job at 11 this morning so I have just been really happy all day about it, telling my mates,” he said. A lot of those friends also managed to get a position as lifeguard he added.

“I’m looking forward to working the beach it is a great atmosphere there, although the pools are good as I have friends there I just feel it is more family orientated at the beach,” he said with Eastern Beach or Caleta being the two he is looking forward to patrolling the most. Catalan Bay is his family’s beach.

Beach manager Alain Gatt is the person in charge of all the lifeguards and oversaw the recruitment drive along with Mr Asquez.

“This year we have tried to step up and improve the whole system and service. The actual selection process has been much more in depth, much more extended not only basing it on the traditional speed swimming test but incorporating a series of beach activities that lifeguards would normally do during their normal day,” said Mr Gatt.

Some of these tasks included running or sprinting on the sand and reaction times from a standstill position to actually getting to the shore line, swimming in the sea as opposed to swimming in a pool.

“Even though it is part and parcel of the national beach lifeguard qualification under the Royal Lifesaving Society the actual speed test of 400m swim in under eight minutes that has always been pool based. This time we have had open water swims, events and activities with the use of the rescue paddle boards. So it has been quite eventful and different to other years,” said Mr Gatt.

“What we have found out is that not necessarily the person who swims the fastest in the pool will end up being the best overall lifeguard. This is because of various things, maybe people who are good swimmers are not good runners or their disposition is different on land to sea because the lifeguard services encompasses a whole range of activities and requirement. So it does not mean the fastest person in the pool at the end of the day will be the best lifeguard available.

This year’s training program have been so intensive that those who have been locally based have undertaken training programmes all throughout winter.

“We have noticed that the level of the candidates that have taken part in the selection process has been of a higher quality than other years and it is down to that work being done over the winter months,” he said.

There will be over 100 people patrolling Gibraltar’s pools and beaches this year, comprising roughly of 50 beach lifeguards, 30 pool lifeguards and the remainder pool or beach attendants and assistants.

Beach Supervisor Aidon Asquez has been decisive in the development of the new candidates and the returning lifeguards for both the beach and pool sections.

“He is also a key cog in the administrative and operational facets of the service, inclusive of the running of our beach accessibility attendants and Pavilion attendant. In effect he supervises the entire beach service operation on the ground, as well as partaking on the organisational side, with the preparation of the rosters, payroll, risk assessment etc,” said Mr Gatt.

In the Pavilion there is seven people on any given day and although there is less required at Europa Pools because they interchange with people at Camp Bay there is also a higher compliment in the South District.

Since the Easter weekend the weekend service has been operational on the beaches. The official bathing season starts on the long weekend in June on the Saturday, this year its starts on June 12. The pools will be opened that day.

The hours the beaches and the pools are open vary.

The pools have lifeguard from 10am to 8pm seven days a week. The pool closes at 8pm.

At Sandy Bay and Catalan Bay lifeguards will be patrolling from 11am to 7pm on Monday to Friday and 10.30am to 7.30pm on weekends and bank holidays.

At Eastern Beach and Western Beach, they will be on duty from 12pm to 8pm on weekdays and 11am to 8pm on weekends and holidays.

Camp Bay and Little Bay will have lifeguards patrolling from 12.30pm to 8.30pm Monday to Friday and on weekends and bank holidays from 11.30am to 8.30pm.

The pool lifeguards will work less days a week as they work ten hour shifts each day, while the beach lifeguards work either eight or nine. During these hours the public can also refill their reusable bottle with water at the lifeguard stations.

Mr Gatt admitted the rota can be big endeavour especially when they need to cover positions should someone become unwell and can’t work or have to go home.

He believes that people are beginning to appreciate the work a lifeguard does more than previous years.

“The general public had tended to disregard or give the credit that is possibly due to a lifeguards and the service is the fact they are young kids who have a very big responsibility but slowly things are changing and I think that people are becoming more aware of the input and there has been exposure over the last couple of years to the lifeguard service and what they represent,” he said.

He notes that sometimes members of the public have a vision that the lifeguards sit around and do nothing but they do not realise that being on duty for a long day in the sun is tiring.

“We keep telling them if you end up being bored throughout the entire day its because nothing has happened, that is what we want to see,” said Mr Gatt.

He added: “One recommendation to the members of the public would be please consider that even though they can be seen as kids who are viewed with very little experience. They have been trained in as much as possible and they are fully qualified in what they are doing,” he said.

“And, if they are to give instructions to members of the public or to give advice about weather conditions on the beach, especially when bathing is restricted, it is because of a reason and there is a very logical reason behind it and ultimately is it for the safety of the public themselves. So please take that into consideration and make the job as easy as possible which in turn will make the service work as it should for the benefit of all those beachgoers who can enjoy their summer on Gibraltar’s beaches as much as possible.”

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