Life(guard) Lesson

Garth Canning, section chief of training for the Junior
Lifeguard Program of the Los Angeles County Fire
Department’s Lifeguard Division, answers a few questions about the program, which runs during the summer up and down the coast.

Why should kids participate in the LA County Junior Lifeguard Program?

GC: It provides children and teenagers with beach and ocean knowledge and skills that will equip them with a foundation to safely enjoy the ocean for a lifetime. The program builds individual self-confidence, as well as teamwork, leadership and problem-solving skills.

Who can join?

GC: Boys and girls, ages 9 to 17, who pass a timed, 100-yard pool swim test.

Why and when did the program begin?

GC: In 1938, LA County developed its first Junior Lifeguard Program for boys ages 15 to 17 to learn lifesaving skills and first aid as a backup system for the permanent (full-time) lifeguards. This program continued until WWII, when participants either left for military service or became permanent lifeguards themselves. The first formal Junior Lifeguard Program was introduced in 1960. In 1973, girls were included and the program evolved into its current format of two sessions a day, five days a week, for five weeks.

What do participants learn?

GC: We teach water safety, swimming, paddling, body surfing, physical conditioning, competition, first aid, rescue techniques, CPR and the use of professional lifesaving equipment.

How many children participate?

GC: Currently the Junior Lifeguard Program enrolls more than 3,000 students annually.

Do many go on to become lifeguards?

GC: Former junior lifeguards make up approximately 10% to 15% of each Lifeguard Training Academy recruit class.

How can we enroll or learn more?

GC: Please visit the LA County Junior Lifeguard Program website at

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