By Patricia B. Dwyer
Splashes and laughter filled La Jolla Cove last week when the San Diego Junior Lifeguards hosted their annual Cove Day.
Hundreds of junior guards spent the day learning about the Cove and its surrounding environment, particularly the rocks and kelp forest.
“The Cove is one of the treasures of San Diego,” said James Murphy, San Diego Junior Lifeguard program manager. “We can’t let our kids miss out on that.”
Younger junior guards spent the day snorkeling, while the older children took part a quarter-mile buoy swim race. Despite the activity, education was the theme of the day.
They spent time at Wipeout Beach, Shell Beach and the Cove, getting safety lessons on how to enter shorebreak with fins on, swim into a rip current and about the caves in the area.
“The reason kids love it is that it’s tactile learning. You’re not just learning about the ocean, you’re in the ocean,” Murphy said. “The reason parents love it is the sooner you waterproof your kids so they are safe in the ocean, the better off they are.”
Cove Day exemplifies the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation and its mission statement of providing children “skills for life.” The foundation works on the theory that by making children more confident in their relationship with the ocean, they will carry that confidence with them and remain involved in healthy and active environments.
The San Diego Junior Lifeguards Program has been a part of San Diego for more than 20 years and around 1,100 children will be involved in the program this summer alone.
Of those 1,100 children, 10 percent will receive scholarships funded by the San Diego Junior Lifeguards Foundation. It costs $500 to attend one summer session of the program without scholarship aid.
The foundation was created in recent years to ensure the steady growth of the San Diego Junior Lifeguards Program. It is also responsible for an outreach program that teaches children how to swim.
The 10 percent of children on scholarship were present on Cove Day, laughing and screaming in the water.
“If you are down there on that day, you can hear kids being kids, when they are really in the moment being kids,” Murphy said. “And it’s a hell of a lot better than a video game.”