DESTIN — The shore remains Sober for yet another summer as a family of lifeguards remains dedicated to beach safety.

The four Sober siblings — Corrie, 25, Elizabeth, 23, Suzanna, 19, and Jeffrey, 17 — arrived at the Shirah Street public beach access in Destin at 10 a.m. on June 28 set to begin their 9-hour lifeguarding shifts.

The competitive swimmers, all dressed in matching red shorts and Polo shirts, said they made lifeguarding the family business after their father, Jeff Sobers, retired from the Navy and became a lifeguard in 2010. 

"My dad was in the Navy so it was swimming, swimming and every sport that didn't get in the way of swimming for us in high school," Corrie said.  "I was the first sibling to start lifeguarding five years ago after my dad told me I should try out. Once I started working as a lifeguard I never looked back. I love it. Working with my siblings makes it even better."

The Sober siblings said they begin each shift with a 30-minute morning workout together and with their lifeguard team. They practice rescues, swimming, paddle boarding and strength training.

“Doing workouts together is a lot of fun,” Corrie said. “We’re a biological family, but we also get to train alongside our lifeguard family. A lot of the seasoned guards help us refine our skills with swimming, being on the board and on the ski (personal watercraft).”

Elizabeth said although each of her siblings hold different interests and possess different personalities, one common interest — their love for swimming — has always kept them connected. 

“We don’t all live together anymore, so us all being lifeguards gives us an opportunity to see each other,” she said. “At the beach it’s the same job, so we’re all the same, even though Corrie is a teacher, I just graduated, Suzie does EMT and Jeffrey is still in high school. We’re all into swimming, the fitness part and toughing it out on the beach on these hot days.”

The siblings said family dinners are never boring as each of them, including their dad who now lifeguards in Walton County, has plenty of "shop talk" to bring to the table.

"We love to all come together and tell each other about our day," Suzanna said. "If you've had a bad day, then they understand what you're going through. We each get to tell each other our crazy stories about what we saw or were a part of on the beach." 

Jeffrey said each story is unique as the daily duties of a lifeguard can vary. Lifeguards on the Destin Harbor work on personal watercraft, while seasoned lifeguards patrol on ATVs and beginner lifeguards monitor the public beaches from a stand.

“I just work on the stand right now,” Jeffrey said. “It’s a little more boring than what my siblings do on the ATVs.”

“On the ATVs you get to cover a larger area than what Jeffrey is doing, which just covers as far as he can see,” Corrie said. “We drive back and forth to make sure that everyone is doing OK and swimming well. We want everyone who came to the beach that day to go home.”

'Mine didn’t have a happy ending'

The Sobers said this summer season has already been the busiest they’ve experienced in the past five years.

Corrie said the large number of rescues was the result of strong surf and Tropical Storm Cindy, which prompted many double-red flag days on the beach.

Suzanna said her first water response this year, which was the very first emergency situation in her four lifeguarding seasons, was a Georgia man who repeatedly disobeyed her instructions to stay out of the water on a double-red flag day.

“Unfortunately, mine didn’t have a happy ending,” Suzanna said. “It was a body recovery. That same day, though, I was able to save two little boys that got caught in a rip current.”  

Elizabeth, who has had over 15 rescues this season alone, said stories like Suzanna’s show the seriousness of what it means to be a lifeguard.  

“A misconception people think about lifeguards is that it’s easy,” she said. “We get a lot of comments on beautiful days like this that we’re not working. I just tell them to come on a red flag day when you’re in and out of the water making rescues all day long. It is days like that you’re grateful you trained even on the easy days.”

The Sober sisters are not above teasing their little brother about his first water rescue.

“I don’t count my only rescue as a rescue,” Jeffrey said with a chuckle. “It was this lady who was on a tube on a sandbar and she was just floating there. She thought she was being sucked out so she kept waving me down. I literally walked up to her and I said, ‘Ma’am, just stand.’ She stood and was like, ‘Oh, OK.' "