Water disasters spotlight importance of Lowcountry lifeguards

Water disasters spotlight importance of Lowcountry lifeguards

FOLLY BEACH, SC (AP) - One the stand, eyes peeled, Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) lifeguards are ready to respond at any time.

Rip currents, a lot of people get sucked out and they're just unaware of their surroundings," Folly Beach lifeguard Taylor Stubbs said.

"We've had a couple water missions to go check on boaters," said Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission Safety Program Assistant Manager Stephen Fernandez.

"Stingrays this year have been really big," Stubbs said.

Fernandez started lifeguarding in 1998. Taylor Stubbs started six years ago. Both say, this summer, the reality of danger on the water has hit home.

"It's been in the press a lot," Stubbs said.

Right now, the search continues for two local men who went missing on a fishing trip on July 8.

Meanwhile, private search crews continue to comb the waters for the 14-year-old boys from Florida who were last scene more than a week ago.

Other stories like shark bites remind the people in red and yellow the value of their job.

"You don't know what could happen if we weren't here, until we're not," Stubbs said.

During the week, there are about 20 lifeguards at a given time. Hundreds of people are typically in the water. Still, they say, they're prepared for any type of disaster.

"Everyday they're spending an hour every morning doing physical and medical training," said Fernandez. "We also do joint trainings with the Medical University, Charleston County EMS and others."

"We go through a surf school at the beginning of the season and we do weekly trainings all Spring to get us prepared before we get out here," Stubbs said.

While stories on water nightmares grab headlines Charleston County Parks and Recreation lifeguards say they're not losing focus on keeping Lowcountry waters safe.

In fact, the CCPRC lifeguard team placed third in the Atlantic Lifeguard Association (SALA) Championships held in July.

On Thursday, the team will travel to Daytona Beach to compete in the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) National Lifeguard Championship against lifeguard teams from all across the country.

Next year, CCPRC will host the 2016 SALA Championships on Folly Beach for the first time.

CCPRC lifeguards will start to cut back their hours in the next two weeks.

Their last full week of patrolling will end Aug. 16. After that, there will be lifeguards on the water through September.

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