NEWS

‘I couldn’t be happier’: Destin beach lifeguards first in state

Savannah Chastain
Fifteen lifeguards from Destin Beach Safety participated in the regional competition during James P. “Mac” McCarthy Memorial Regional Surf Lifesaving Championships earlier this month.

The Destin Beach Safety crew now has the bragging rights of being some of the top beach lifeguards in the state. The claim to fame came in the form of a first place win by the Destin team at the James P. “Mac” McCarthy Memorial Regional Surf Lifesaving Championships in Clearwater Beach July 17-18. Destin’s performance topped that of 27 lifeguard teams from across the state in the Small Beach Control Division.

“I absolutely couldn’t be happier with their results,” said Beach Safety Chief Joe D’Agostino. “Just the effort they put in to stay in shape after hours, I could care less if they got 7th place. Every time my staff gets in the water they are getting better.”

Lifeguard Officer Bobby Anderson, one of the 15 Destin competitors, agreed that what made the team so successful was their stamina and determination to stay in shape.

“I think we were all pretty confident because we have trained so hard,” said Anderson, adding that training for the competition began in March. “What we’ve done to prepare is two-a-days. In the morning we do beach swims, board rescue runs, and surf ski, and when we get off work we do pool swims, more runs, paddle boards and ride waves if we have waves.”

During the two-day competition, participants took part in 14 events including individual and relay races focusing on swimming, running, paddling and beach rescuing techniques.

“Because we went with 15 (lifeguards), we had to make it a point to have every competitor compete in every event,” said Anderson, adding that teams with larger squads often have designated participants for each event. “We don’t have any specialists so it takes a lot out of us.”

Anderson himself took part in multiple events winning first or second place in every race.

“I won all of mine, all the age group 30-39 year-old races,” he said. “I thought, ‘anything that will help us win, I’ll just tough it out.’”

D’Agostino explained that points were awarded based on city size, and although Destin fell into the small beach category, they faced teams from the largest beach communities throughout the competition.   

“We are one of the smallest chapters in the state,” said D’Agostino. “For us it’s difficult because I know we have the talent, but our first priority is covering the beach. If I could bring all 50 of us, that would be great, but beach safety is our highest priority.”

Now with the regional race under their belt, the Destin crew looks forward to the challenge of the national competition at the United States Lifesaving Association National Lifeguard Championships on August 7-9 in Virginia Beach, Va.

“We were placing first through fourth in every event at regional, and we are hoping it will be the same for nationals,” said D’Agostino. “We’ve finished second in the country in the small beach control division in both 2012 and 2013.”

Eleven lifeguards will represent Destin at the national competition including six international lifeguards who work seasonally on the Destin beaches. Anderson told The Log that due to low manpower and his position as on of only three beach officers he will not be competing in the National competition.

“I’m an officer, and we have to make sure everyone is protected out on the beach, that comes first,” he said.

As for D’Agostino, he said he sees the competition as a great team-builder and encouragement for continued training.

“It’s a nice carrot for me to dangle to keep them motivated to stay fit for the job,” he said. “We have to stay fit because the way our lifeguard system works, using roving patrols with one person to one mile of beach. They have to be athletes; it’s just what the system demands.”

THE WHO’S WHO

The first place team members consisted of: Bobby Anderson, Cory Hill, Aiste Dobrovolskaite, Ollie Puddick, Bryce Orchard, Taylor Hardy, Bobby Walsh, Richard Russell, Cameron Prosser, Cooper Halligan, Kathryn Moorby, Jordan Perrin, Chris Wise, Madi Quinn and Jamie Garea.