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Kids get a taste of lifeguard life at Clearwater camp

The Clearwater Fire & Rescue junior lifeguard camp teaches kids what it takes to look after swimmers at the beach.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — More than a dozen kids ages 8 to 12, all dressed in bright yellow shirts, gathered around the Clearwater Beach Lifeguard house Tuesday morning for stretching and instruction. 

It was day two of a week-long camp designed to get kids interested in learning the ins and outs of the life-saving profession.

“Do any of you want to be lifeguards when you grow up?” shouted a lifeguard.

The answer was an unanimous and resounding yes.

The first drill of the day was a run while carrying floatation equipment. The breezy morning aided campers as they sprinted across the sand just south of Pier 60. It was pleasing to beach lifeguard manager Patrick Brafford to see everyone learning and having fun.

“We have a few returners from a couple years back. Very enthusiastic,” said Brafford, who has been in Florida for a decade. “The good thing about this man it is good interaction between other kids and the public. Learning good responsibility.”

The Clearwater Fire & Rescue junior lifeguard camp returns after taking 2020 off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It teaches kids the skills they need to become lifeguards. Campers learn how to give CPR, what emergency flags at lifeguard towers mean, and how to survey the ocean for swimmers in distress. The minimum requirement to attend the camp includes the ability to swim 100 yards unassisted, tread water for five minutes and swim underwater for 10 feet.

“It’s pretty fun,” said Hanleigh Pickle, 11. “You get to go to towers and kind of watch. They taught you how to scan so, like, make sure no one is drowning and make sure no one is calling for help on the sand or anything.”

Campers also practice water rescues at a nearby pool. Clearwater Beach employs 10 permanent lifeguards and about 25 part-time lifeguards.

This week, the 14 junior lifeguards are fitting in just fine.

“The most important thing is recognize the emergency,” said Brafford.

This week’s camp runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and was exclusively for kids age 8-12. Next week, a second camp will be held for kids age 13-16.

The city of Clearwater hopes to make this an annual camp and eventually host multiple lifeguard camps each year.

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