Think like a lifeguard this summer


The rip currents off South Shore beaches that were predicted last weekend, courtesy of Hurricane Arthur, for the most part didn’t show, but many others surely will this summer. The swimmers who have braved the ocean recently haven’t ventured out far in water that’s been 10 degrees colder than comfortable, but before long lifeguards will be whistling more people in toward shore and, when that action does not have the desired result, grabbing torpedo buoys, high-stepping through the surf and stroking out to rescue them.

Help make your pool and ocean lifeguards’ lives less stressful this season by using common sense in and around the water. If lifeguards wrote the laws, the first one might be Learn to Swim, no matter your age. Many 5- and 6-year-olds can move comfortably through deep water after just a few weeks of lessons, and parents of even younger children who are eager to acquaint them with aquatics should check out the gasp-worthy video at www.infantswim.com. That’s how natural swimming can be.

All the same, the best experiences at your local public pool or at the beach will benefit from caution. The second lifeguards’ law might be Parents Swim Too. Get in the pool with your kids, and keep the younger ones within reach. Resist the urge to help them stay afloat with anything inflatable; the plastic arm bands, especially, are one of swimming’s truly regrettable inventions, aiding only in complicating and lengthening the learning process.

If you can’t be in the pool all the time, you should be able to entrust older children to the lifeguards — if it’s obvious to you that they are focused on their job, which is watching the water. If you see a lifeguard averting his glance too often to chat for too long with a friend on the deck below his chair, feel free to remind him — or the pool manager — that much of his training was about minimizing distractions.

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