LA beach rescues jump nearly 300 percent

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Ocean rescues have jumped nearly 300 percent from last spring, thanks to a warmer than usual winter and spring.

From Jan. 1 through May 12 of 2013, L.A. County lifeguards made 723 ocean rescues. During that same time this year, ocean rescues have skyrocketed to more than 2,000.

Add in another 3,200 medical rescues, and lifeguards are running non-stop.

"What we're really dealing with is summer-like activities in late winter, spring and now summer, and so it's something we're accustomed to dealing with on a regular summer, it just happened to occur through much of the winter this year," said L.A. County lifeguard Cpt. Erik Albertson.

Dozens of lifeguard hopefuls got a glimpse of what it takes to patrol the beach as they were put to the final test in Hermosa Beach.

In October, 300 turned out for the tryout swim. They're down to 31 to see who makes the final cut.

"My goal here is to get these lifeguard candidates trained so that they will be able to perform in any situation and at any time in any scenario to make sure that we can maintain, we can make sure that everybody that comes to the beach goes home happy and healthy," said Capt. Evan Cassaday

Lifeguards say it's not just the warm weather that's drawing big crowds to the coast, but also the unusually warm water, which is helping fuel dangerous conditions.

"We've had a lot of surf over the winter and even into the summer and that larger surf cuts up the ocean bottom, and when the bottom gets cut up and you have water moving it creates rip currents and in shore holes," said Albertson.

Lifeguards recommend that beach-goers enter the water near an open lifeguard tower so that they can be reached quickly in the event of an emergency.

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