Know Your Lifeguards: La Jolla Light series spotlights La Jolla’s lifeguards
— KNOW YOUR LIFEGUARDS:
Last summer David Dupont was watching the water from the main lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool when he said he saw the ocean pulling out a boy at Wipe Out Beach, just south of Point Mencinger. “It happened so fast. From the main tower you (usually) radio in, ‘I need someone to come over here,’ but it was such a critical rescue that I just decided to go,” he said.
By the time he got to the beach, about 500 feet away from the main tower, the next wave had pushed the boy back, and a woman had been pulled in. The tide was high and the surf was going up. “It was so powerful that when (the ocean) pushed us up, I was trying to stay up there, but the waves kept pulling us back and forth,” David explained.
Eventually, other lifeguards helped secure the victim and the paramedics were called to evaluate her. “That spot is very dangerous because of the rocks; the surf gets really big … and it’s very steep,” he pointed out.
David has been a seasonal lifeguard in La Jolla for seven years. He was first hired with his identical twin brother, Jonathon, and they both worked the seasonal towers of La Jolla. “(The Lifeguard Services) do a draft after your first year where they of decide if you’re going to La Jolla, Mission Beach or Pacific Beach, and we both got drafted to La Jolla,” David said.
In 2014, Jonathon left the service to pursue a career as a pilot, but David stayed and he’ll be trying to get hired as a full-time lifeguard in the next round of interviews. “I really like this job,” he said.
Although they don’t work together anymore, David and Jonathon still rent an apartment together in Clairemont. “We were best friends growing up, always doing the same thing —from skate boarding, boogie boarding, surfing…” he said.
The San Diego-native said he started surfing at age 8, and before that he was boogie boarding. He pointed out that the transition to lifeguard is natural for many surfers. “We grew up in the ocean, so you know all the rip currents, and all the ins and outs. There’s still a lot you have to learn, but the basics of going in and out of the water, and knowing what dangerous situations look like, these things you already know,” he said.
When David’s not lifeguarding, he works delivering Christmas trees, a job he didn’t know existed before he took it. “It has really good tips … It doesn’t seem like work at all, people are always happy.”
What’s it like to save people’s lives?
“It’s really fun and gratifying. It’s hard at first because you see everybody out in the water and don’t think this could be that person’s first time, and they may have no idea of how to get out of a rip current. A lot of times if you go out there, they don’t even know they’re in trouble yet, and they’re like, ‘oh, I’m fine,’ but then you have to wait ’til they realize, ‘OK, I can’t make it in. I need help.’ ”
How do you train new lifeguards?
“We have specific field training guides. One of them is ‘The Rescue Board,’ with bullet points like, how to go in and out of the surf on a rescue board; how to perform a rescue on it; how to load it up with an unconscious victim … When a trainee comes to us, they have a good understanding of how to use the board, because in the academy they teach you everything you need to know, but stuff like this is repetition, you can hear it once in the academy and you might not remember exactly what you’re supposed to do. Most people are pretty green, everyone is at first, I was.”
What is your favorite thing to do in the water?
“Surfing is my favorite thing to do in the water. I have a scuba dive certification, but it’s not something I do regularly. The ocean for me is pretty much surfing.”
Got a safety tip for beach-goers?
“I’d say if you have never been in the ocean before, don’t go above your head. Talk to a lifeguard first and see what the conditions are for the day, because even in a really nice and calm day, there can be 10- to 15-foot waves coming in. If you’re not from the beach, you may not even realize that. Know the conditions and know your abilities, so you’re not getting in over your head.”
What are your favorite beaches in La Jolla?
“I like it here at Children’s Pool, there’s not as many people around, and then obviously, WindanSea is a favorite just because the waves are always getting better and that’s the main hangout spot. There’s always surf there.”