. - More than 250 lifeguards from across the East Coast are spending the next two days putting their lifesaving skills to the test at Folly Beach.
Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC hosted) is hosting the South Atlantic Lifesaving Association (SALA) Regional Lifesaving competition for the first time in nearly 20 years. CCPRC hosted the event at Kiawah's Beachwalker Park in 1998.
"The old, sit-on-the-beach, get a tan thing, those days are over," Tom Gill, President of South Atlantic Lifesaving Association said. "These are medically trained, first responding professionals, just like your fire, medical and police are."
Lifeguards from Virginia Beach, V.A. to Wrightsville, N.C. will compete in events ranging from a 2k Beach run to relays. Some events, like the landline rescue, even mimic real-life scenarios.
According to Nikki Bowie, Safety Program Manager for CCPRC, approximately 30 Charleston lifeguards are also joining the competition, which showcases the profession's athleticism.
Folly Beach County Park and the Folly Beach Fishing Pier serve over 454,000 annual visitors each year. Charleston County's lifeguards are constantly training, according to Bowie.
"They get here to train an hour before work and in between breaks, they're training," Bowie said. "They've got a full day."
Organizers said many of the competing lifeguards are Olympic-caliber swimmers.
"It's an important culmination of not what these lifeguards train for all summer, but really all their lives. We've got people that train for a living to perform their occupation better than the rest," Gill said. "They're all lifesavers. They're all heroes. They take it to another level by training hard and for lack of a better term, show off their skills."
Competition continues Thursday morning at 8 a.m. near the Folly Beach pier. Regional winners will compete in nationals in C.A. in August.