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Okaloosa Junior Lifeguards learn what it takes in summer program

Devon Ravine
dravine@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

OKALOOSA ISLAND — For the past two weeks, 34 kids ranging in age from 10 to 17 have been getting a firsthand look at what it takes to be a lifeguard through Okaloosa County Beach Safety’s Junior Lifeguard summer camp.

Lt. Shelby Serna, who oversees the program, said so far the junior lifeguards have learned CPR and toured the Okaloosa Island Fire Department. They will also see a demonstration of a medical evacuation helicopter in action. But Serna said the big focus of the program is safety around the water, including “knowing their limitations in the water, knowing how to recognize a rip current and knowing how to get out of one.”

Junior lifeguards also learn how to use some of the tools used by professional lifeguards like rescue boards and floats to help swimmers in distress.

“I really like this camp,” said Luna Arellano, who was participating for her third year. “I wish it was the whole summer (long).”

One traditional highlight of the program, the “pier jump,” came a little earlier this year. The 30-foot plunge from the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier usually comes at the end of the two-week-long summer camp. But because of storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the potential for rough surf, organizers moved the jump up to Tuesday morning.

Most of the junior lifeguards made the plunge, including Arellano, who passed on her secret for making such a daunting leap.

“I just look at the horizon and jump in,” said Arellano.