Destin lifeguards get ready for spring break

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Starting the weekend of March 11, lifeguards will be back patrolling the beaches of Destin. 

“We should have enough for spring break,” Beach Safety Director Joe D’Agostino said. 

Beach Safety Director Joe D'Agostino talks with Kyle Via about the current in the Gulf of Mexico as well as where the buoys are located. Via was to complete a 500 meter swim in less than 10 minutes.

He’s looking at having six roving patrols and a supervisor for the west side of Destin and a supervisor on the east end, for a total of eight lifeguards. 

D’Agostino said they are also going to try to have lifeguards at June White Decker Beach and the Shores at Crystal Beach at Hutchison Street.

The guards will be out there from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and maybe longer. For spring break, they will cover the beaches from the Walton County line near Capt. Dave’s on the Gulf on the east end to the east jetties on the west end.

Once summer gets here, Beach Safety will start the East Pass and Crab Island lifeguard service at Norriego Point and place a fireboat and jet ski at Crab Island.

Crab Island is the water playground area for visitors and locals alike just to the north of the Destin Bridge. 

Kyle Via finishes the swim test of 500 meters in 8 minutes and 30 seconds.

But in the meantime, Destin Beach Safety is getting geared up and ready for the season ahead. 

On Feb. 22, Kyle Via went through the swim test to be a Destin lifeguard. 

Every person has to be able to swim 500 meters in 10 minutes or less to be a guard. 

He finished in 8 minutes, 30 seconds. 

“The water felt great, once you get going, it's just guiding you along the way. And that current was perfect,” Via said.  

Lifeguards will be back on patrol in Destin starting March 11.

Working as a lifeguard is not new to Via. 

“My first year with South Walton was in 2017. I did five seasons on and off,” he said, noting he was in the military and would catch shifts when he was home. 

More:Junior Lifeguards learn beach safety while having fun

'Just want everyone to stay alive'

As for spring break and the days ahead, D’Agostino said, “heed the advice of the beach patrol."

“We’re not the fun police. The lifeguards want to see everybody, families, college kids, everybody have a good time. But we also want to afford you the ability to go home when it’s all said and done,” he said.

“We don’t want to ruin anyone's fun, but we just want everyone to stay alive,” he added. 

Kyle Via takes to the Gulf of Mexico as part of a test to be a lifeguard in Destin. Guards have to complete a 500 meter swim in less than 10 minutes.

Last year, spring break was busy along the beaches of Destin. 

“If memory serves correct, there wasn’t a lot of incidents last year,” D’Agostino said, noting it was a mild condition. 

D’Agostino said weather dictates what’s going to be busy and what’s not. 

From March 2022:Destin Fire Control District to put lifeguards on beach at Henderson Beach State Park

“The rooms could be at 100% capacity and if we have beautiful calm seas, we’re not going to be that busy. But our rooms could be at 50% capacity, and we could have rough seas and we would be the busiest jokers in all of Destin. 

“It’s just all weather dependent,” he said. 

Kyle Via comes out of the Gulf of Mexico and completes the swim in under 10 minutes.

Beach Safety counts the second weekend of March to the Sunday of Easter as the spring-break season. 

And Easter can be tricky, D’Agostino said. 

“We always think of holidays as a fixed day … the 4th of July, December 25 is Christmas and New Year’s Day. But Easter is a floating holiday,” D’Agostino said. 

“So, you can have a short quiet time from Easter to Mother's Day, or you can have this gap where it’s really long. It still feels like we’ve got a small break from Easter until about Mother’s Day. And by Mother’s Day, the middle of May … it feels like it’s on,” he said. 

Beach Safety Director Joe D'Agostino chats with Kyle Via who is wanting to become a Destin lifeguard. Via underwent the 500 meter swim test earlier this week.

This year, Easter falls on April 9 and Mother’s Day is May 14 with five weeks in between the two. 

And from what D’Agostino is seeing and hearing, it looks to be a busy year as far as visitors to the area. 

More:Challenge: Destin firefighter Holly Heidenreich makes 80-mile crossing from Bahamas to Florida

“It currently has the feeling that we’re going to have that 90, close to 100% occupancy starting around Memorial Day. So, another banner year for our area,” he said. 

Year-round guards 

D'Agostino said Beach Safety is working with the county to have year-round lifeguard service in Destin. 

“We’d be the last ones to do it,” he said, noting they already have year-round guards in Pensacola, Navarre, Okaloosa Island and Walton County. 

“We just think It’s time to start not having a season but to be out there in some capacity, not 50 chairs on January 1, but at least one or two guys that can respond,” he said. 

“It’s not like the people are not using the waterways in November, December, January and February,” he said. 

“I look at it now and we have more accidents happening in those four months than the other eight months in the water. We’ve got to look at that and see if we can’t fix that as a community,” D’Agostino said.