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Longtime La Jolla lifeguard Daniel Orloff is promoted to sergeant and moves to Pacific Beach station

Daniel Orloff participates in a practice cliff rescue.
(Courtesy of Daniel Orloff)

One way or another, lifeguard Daniel Orloff has spent most of his life on La Jolla beaches.

Having grown up in La Jolla and with a stepfather who was a lifeguard for the Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove, and himself having guarded everything from Windansea to La Jolla Shores, he’s familiar with the community’s coastline.

For the record:

9:10 a.m. July 3, 2021This article was updated to correct the year Daniel Orloff became a permanent lifeguard.

So while his new post in Pacific Beach — guarding everything from Santa Clara Street to PB Point — and promotion to sergeant may mean navigating new waters, he’ll still be jumping in feet first.

Orloff reported to his new station July 1.

“La Jolla has a lot of sentimental value for me, so it was hard to leave,” he said, but he added that he’s “really excited” about the new position.

“My goal is to come in and learn from everyone that has been there and maintain a humble leadership style. There are some star lifeguards coming up in the PB area,” Orloff said. “They are used to a high call volume that I’m not used to working the rocks in La Jolla. So seeing how these guards manage call after call is impressive, and I’m excited to get thrown into the fire.”

He noted that La Jolla beaches have constantly changing conditions, whereas Pacific Beach has a constant flow of people that means more calls. But he said he’s ready for the change.

“Everyone in the lifeguard ranks has a beach they prefer because they differ greatly,” Orloff said. “In La Jolla, you have the dynamic coastline that has bigger surf and little pocket beaches and some dangerous areas, so your solutions might have to be more creative. In PB, it’s year-round steady conditions, steady rip currents and a steady flow of people. The seasonality of beach crowds in La Jolla doesn’t apply to PB, so there is just always a high volume of calls. It’s a big shift for me [after] working the majority of my career in La Jolla, where I’m used to seasonal surf and reefs.”

Orloff, who wrote in third grade at La Jolla Elementary School that he wanted to be a lifeguard and a lawyer, started as a seasonal lifeguard in 2010. He took the summer off in 2015 to study for the bar exam and took the summer of 2017 off to work for then-San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry.

In 2019, he became a permanent lifeguard and did rotations at La Jolla’s pocket beaches such as the one at Marine Street and at larger beaches like La Jolla Shores.

“I’ve guarded every La Jolla station at some point,” he said with a laugh. “I was fortunate enough to see all parts of the town I grew up in. It’s a community that’s important to me. There are lifeguards in La Jolla that know the area because they worked there and grew up there, which is hard to find and gives another layer of commitment to the community.”

One of those lifeguards was Orloff’s stepfather, Brian Zeller, who guarded the Children’s Pool and The Cove when Orloff was a child.

“Visiting him at work was inspiring to me,” Orloff said. “I wanted to be a guard and guard La Jolla.”

Now, in the role of sergeant, he has a new set of responsibilities. “Regardless of rank, I feel like we all have the opportunity to be leaders, but this is a formal leadership position,” Orloff said. “I’ve always felt the purpose in this job is to help others, and I think I could have a serious impact on people in this role, without taking an authoritative approach but by leading by example and helping everyone around. I believe a rising tide lifts all boats.”

A sergeant also is responsible for day-to-day beach operations and covers for other sergeants if they’re called away in an emergency.

“It’s a fast transition, but I’m ready,” Orloff said.

His message to all beach users across San Diego: “Respect the ocean; it’s a lot bigger than any one of us. So if we step back and respect the power of the ocean, it keeps us humble and safe. It also keeps the lifeguards going in to save you safe. It’s an incredible force of nature.” ◆