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Summer safety: Junior Lifeguard Competition at Castaic Lake

Junior lifeguard students compete and learn new skills at camp

Posted: August 3, 2009 10:02 p.m.
Updated: August 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Seventeen-year-old Cale Nichols makes his way toward shore Monday morning as he practices for the Junior Lifeguard Competition at Castaic Lake on Tuesday.

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Six summers ago, Trevor Anthony's mom came across the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguards summer program online.

Realizing she didn't want her children sitting at home for the summer, Trevor's mom enrolled both her sons in the summer camp.

Now 15, Trevor Anthony has been back at the lake every summer since to work on his swimming and lifeguarding skills.

"It's the funnest thing I do every summer," he said.

He hopes to be hired as a Hurricane Harbor lifeguard when he's 16. From there, he can start training at Castaic Lake to become a lifeguard.

This year, Anthony was one of about 400 junior lifeguards who took part in the summer program, which director Manuel "Manny" Barrios calls a "record-breaking year."

The youth will test their skills in the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard competition today, competing in relay races, runs and swims against junior lifeguards from Santa Fe Dam and Bonelli Lake.

On Thursday night, about 400 parents will take to the waters in the "Macho Man" competition, in which junior lifeguard parents are challenged to finish what their sons and daughters have been doing for weeks.

"It's neat to see the parents watch their kids and be in awe of what their kids have done," said Steve "Scuba" Himes, program coordinator.

When the 1999 Adam Sandler movie "Big Daddy" was released, junior lifeguard students dubbed Himes "Scuba Steve" based on a figure in the movie.

The two, four-week-long programs take kids ages 9 to 17 years old through all the training and steps to become a lifeguards.

Daily structured activities sharpen swimming skills while mixing in lessons about rescuing and life-saving skills such as CPR.

Since Castaic Lake is a hot spot for boating and water activities, junior lifeguards also learn about boating safety.

By week two, campers are able to swim the 400 meters or so from the beach of Paradise Cove to the other side of the lake.

The program boosts self-esteem in the adolescents and teenagers and instills lessons of team work and leadership in the campers.
Not to mention splashing around 80-degree water on a hot summer day.

"It's a nice place to be," Himes said.

Lifeguard instructors keep the summer camp fun as students learn to use the kayaks and paddle boards on the water.

Kids are able to spend a day at the beach, at Hurricane Harbor or to join the annual overnight camping trip, he said.

Most junior lifeguards go on to become lifeguards for Castaic Lake, community pools, the city of Santa Clarita or the Hurricane Harbor water park run by Six Flags in Valencia, Himes said.

About 10 of the 13 lifeguard instructors at Castaic Lake are former junior lifeguards themselves.

"It's come full circle now," said Himes, who also took part in the junior lifeguards program as a teenager.

Junior lifeguards is a highlight for Barrios and Himes every year.

"It's kind of depressing to see it end," Barrios said.

But once the last activity is done, it's right back to planning.

"I look forward to the program every year," he said.

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