OCEANSIDE, Calif. – San Diego County lifeguard agencies say they’re struggling to retain young seasonal lifeguards as the summer season draws near.
Agencies in Imperial Beach, Solana Beach, Encinitas and Oceanside all want to add more lifeguards and potentially are looking at running secondary academies if their ranks are too thin.
“We’re trying to find people that can operate in our surf line,” Oceanside lifeguard Lt. Blake Faumuina said. “It’s an unforgiving environment. The ocean is inherently dangerous, so trying to get people who are trained enough, skilled enough, have the ocean knowledge and background to apply and then pass the rigorous training process for San Diego County, it is difficult to find people.”
Twenty years ago, lifeguards were making roughly twice the minimum wage for highly competitive positions, according to Faumuina. That allowed high school and college students to come in and make a steady wage while developing skills for a variety of different careers.
Because of wage stagnation, new potential lifeguards have other options to make easier money.
“These days, we’re barely scraping minimum wage just to stay ahead of the program,” Faumuina said, adding that positions require many certifications and a “very high skill set.”
Another difficulty for lifeguards is that most pools were shuttered during the pandemic, making it challenging for guards to keep up with rigorous training to be ready for summer.
The city is hoping to pull in more full-time lifeguards to round out their team, Faumuina said.
“Definitely work towards building critical thinkers and problem solvers,” he said.