My Beat, Subway to Sand

I have sinned on this sandy beat of mine.

Well, I committed two beach misdemeanors.

As you know, I’m into presence on this delightful beat; anything that detracts from presence is a violation of the Sea-Shore-Penal-Law.

I sat enjoying the fantastic summer morn when I decided to do a WORDLE, and then—a crossword.

While doing either, I might have missed an osprey dive-and-snatch or a breaching whale grinning at my inattention.

In my defense, Cheryl gave me the crossword as I went down to the sand. She meant well, but the sandy road to perdition is imprinted with good intentions.

A gull brought me back to shore life by dropping a mussel near me. But the sand was too soft to crack the shell, so he soared again, trying the harder surf-sand.

Gulls drop shellfish onto docks, and boat decks too, often angering boaters. The gulls do what they must to get their morsel of mussel. They’re more than a pretty face, ya know:

The gull was looking for a hard surface, so I hid under hat and umbrella, lest my dome be too tempting.

The gull made me realize that my word games were a dereliction to my post: the eternal sea-show before me.

So, I picked up my camera and strolled the surf and sun.

A fisherman, toting pole and bucket, walked toward me. He smiled when he said, “You took photos of me a long time ago.” I didn’t remember him until he said his name was Alex.

I’ve taken many photos of fishermen, part of my retirement “job,” you know. It’s a bit lighter task than patrolling the subways of New York. The roar of the surf beats the din of roaring steel. And salt air sure beats bladder processed beer.

Alex showed me his catch in the bucket, a twenty-inch fluke. He was delighted when I offered to take his photo with it. Alex is a happy man, happy to be doing what he loves. Aren’t we all? Shouldn’t we all seek that?

Alex, the fisherman

When I turned back toward my chair, I saw lifeguards up on their wooden perch waving and pointing to someone far offshore.

Suddenly, the sand exploded in rushing waves of toned bodies.

I saw a struggling swimmer far offshore.

A life-saving rescue, and I was front and center.

Lifeguards sprinted from near and far.

Enthusiasm blasted through the water

They forged the waves, towing their orange torps:

They ran a line into the sea…

…and pulled swimmer and lifeguard shoreward:

I couldn’t believe my luck. I thought, “I’m finally in the right place at the right time.”

Lifeguards and swimmer, at last on shore…

…where they placed him onto the sand.

I thought, “I have Pulitzer prize stuff in my camera, for sure.” “Well, at least a Newsday nod—certainly a Long Beach Patch headline.”


…the drowning “victim” got up—and dove into the sea.

It was then I realized this was all a training drill.

Capt. Mike and Lt Ed critique the drill

Well, at least I got good pics of people doing what they do best.

In the past I was lucky to get many more photos and even a couple of videos of our lifeguards:

Lifeguard, Meghan, below, was in an actual oxygen-needed save at Laurelton beach shortly before this rescue drill. A swimmer was really saved—that’s the reason for these drills.

From left, Meghan, Capt. Mike Lundwall, Lt. Ed Segurej 

To the uninformed, lifeguards look like they have soft jobs…

…but they are always ready for the real life-saving when a struggling swimmer appears. It’s a heavy responsibility, knowing that your performance may be the difference between the life or death of a child, a mom, a dad. These lifeguards are people of heart, of caring—of training—to make a difference.

Long Beach lifeguards, with skill and spirit, in their morning run

Yes, these realistic drills, realistic enough to fool me, make these lifeguards—life guards. It’s training like this, regularly, that prepares lifeguards for those demanding moments.

But their job is also diligence in being watchful and correcting swimmers in potential trouble spots. These proactive actions save lives by preventing emergencies.

Lt. Ed directs a swimmer away from the Jetty and to the posted flag-safe area.

Sadly, lifeguards can’t be present all the time. People go into the surf, and onto the jetties when lifeguards are off-duty. They feel adventurous, daring, and “brave.” Sometimes they never go home.

Every year, new young men and women want to serve as lifeguards. But applicants must make the cut. They must pass the strenuous testing, during which they must display physical ability but also the drive that the job requires.

These rookies must run to Pacific Blvd beach, then do a one-mile swim back to Riverside Blvd.

But the training, the vetting, the repeated drills pay off. In Long Beach there have been no drownings, while lifeguards were on duty, for the last seventeen years. We’ll never know how many swimmers went home to their families—rather than not—because of these lifeguards.

Yes, it was another good day for me on my Long Beach beat. The struggling swimmer wasn’t real, but one fluke, and Alex’s happiness was real. You can see it all over his face.

Be well,


13 replies »

  1. Kath,
    Yes, it’s strikes me vividly, the contrast between my days in the hole, and my days in the sun. And yes, we all need to be grateful for
    lifeguards. Thank you so much for your kind words.


  2. Great post! I’m so grateful for lifeguards! Love the humor and comparison to your days on the beat in the subway! 😊


  3. Great article including the photos! My nephew is in many of them. I’m a proud aunt of two LB Lifeguards. Growing up in LB I was raised to be a strong swimmer. As I got older I felt safe knowing the crew were there watching during summer season. Now living in California I miss seeing LB Crew on beach days when there’s often no lifeguard in site!
    Thanks again for a beautiful post!
    Long Beach Strong!


  4. My pleasure, Belinda. Yes they are masterful at their jobs. It’s a comfort to know our loved ones are safe amidst this dedicated Corps.
    Be well,


  5. Thank you for such a Beautiful story and Long Beach memories! I was always impressed with the Long Beach Lifeguards and miss watching them doing their drills!


  6. Hi Al
    So good to hear from a lifeguard “old corps” veteran. I do see a Marine Corps quality of diligence and performance in our Long Beach lifeguards. I’m sure there are many other lifeguard groups who perform as well, I can only speak of what I see and know.

    Im sure you’ve been involved in plenty of saves in your time.

    You were blessed to serve and be able to feel you made a difference on this planet. Performing your job to mean life or death in such a sudden situation is an incredible challenge.

    Many other bands of Brothers and Sisters, in varying careers, know the feeling of such service, and respect their mutual career choices, to just “make a difference.”

    Thank you for your service.

    Be well,


  7. Diane,
    Putting a smile on faces, puts one on mine. More of us need to work that reciprocity, I think. The world would be a happier place.
    Be well,


  8. Hi Louise
    I’m glad my post brought back some good memories for you. Fishermen, I find, are good people.

    Sounds strange to make such a generalization from that activity, but I do think good people are drawn to harvesting the sea’s bounty, or just doing so brings out the goodness in them. Probably both.

    Enjoy your memories. And be in nature as much as you can, yourself.
    Be well,


  9. Having proudly been a Long Beach lifeguard for several years (in the 50’s and early 60’s), as well as the captain of the east crew, I truly appreciate what you say here. It is a wonderful job as well as one fraught with life threatening events, but definitely worth it. Pride and the satisfaction in the work are trademarks of the Long Beach lifeguard. I applaud those individuals who throughout the years have kept the Long Beach Lifeguard Association active. Al Feinstein


  10. Lee you have created another wonderful blog! From lifeguard training to a happy fisherman you made me smile:)! Thank you Lee! Have a great day!


  11. Enjoyable read. Reminds me of my dad catching fluke and flounder, and cleaning it on newspaper on the redwood picnic table out back. Once I stepped on a sharp object- could have been a shell or glass, and the lifeguard bandaged me up. Louise Dunn Herman, class of ’61.

    Sent from my iPhone



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