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Lifeguards hone skills with PWC training

January 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Local lifeguards joined forces Friday to learn an advanced method of rescuing swimmers and surfers in need of help. Lifeguards simulated rescues using jet skis in the surf off Huntington Beach. Ten part-time lifeguards learned how to use the personal water craft and it's their next level of training.

"The PWC is one of our main instruments that we use to affect most of our inshore rescues," said Dan Kaiahua, a Huntington Beach lifeguard.

Last year, Huntington Beach lifeguards rescued more than 3,000 people. Out of more than 160 lifeguards, more than half have received personal water craft training. Jet skis allow them to go where larger boats cannot handle as easily.

Officials call the training essential.

"There's an element of risk involved and can't afford to have our people get injured or any of the people visiting our jurisdiction be injured through our actions while we're trying to perform a rescue," explained Michael Baumgartner of Huntington Beach Marine Safety.

Still fresh in many minds is the death of 11-year-old Alyssa Squirrel. The junior lifeguard was taking part in a training exercise, when she was hit by a boat driven by Marine Safety Lt. Greg Crow. Authorities determined there was no evidence of a crime. It was simply a tragic accident.

"That will never go away for our staff, and actually it affected safety personnel up and down the coast. So yes, it is in back of our minds at all times," said Baumgartner.

This three-day course comes as the surf swells. It's a time when this equipment is usually relied on. Lifeguards are always working on their skills, especially with a high surf advisory in effect through Monday afternoon.

Lifeguards are honing their skills and keeping watch over the 3.5 miles of beach that more than 10 million people visit each year.