Lifeguards Finish Training at Duluth YMCA

Final training session held for lifeguards to work on Park Point and at Camp Miller.

DULUTH, Minn.- Summer is almost here, bringing swimmers out to pools and beaches throughout the Northland.

As they bring out their floats and bathing suits, Lifeguards are dusting off their skills, and rescue tubes, some for the first time.

Only four bodies occupy the pool at the Duluth Area Family YMCA on Sunday. They take turns jumping in, grabbing another and swimming them back to the wall, almost in a blur.

“When you’re in that life or death situation where you have to save someone, it’s gonna be a lot less time to think,” said Caleb Komarek.

Komarek is one of four lifeguards finishing learning their skills at the Y.

Skills they’ll use to save lives in the waters of Duluth.

“Today we’re certifying in pool lifeguarding and waterfront lifeguarding. So they’ll be able to lifeguard at Park Point and our lake down at Camp Miller,” Sara Eder, Camping Services Executive Director said.

These brand new lifeguards-in-training start learning the skills on paper and take written tests.

Then, with a splash they jump in, finding that their job isn’t an easy swim.

“It’s pretty arduous,” said Komarek. “Hardest thing is just the rescues, the different holds and techniques you need to use to retrieve people from the water.”

He demonstrates. “You have to do this for an active victim and you have to do this for a passive.”

Those holds can get challenging, because people of all shapes and sizes need saving.

“The physical activity to be a lifeguard you have to be a little bit stronger than I think people realize, it’s not just sitting in a chair and watching people swim,” Eder said. “We help train our lifeguards and do some conditioning before the classes so that they’re ready for the demands of the class.”

Plus, the water brings its own set of struggles. “The water pressure when you get deep is really tough,” said Komarek.

But during such an intense practice, there’s still room to have some fun.

“We have a lot of fun together we know each other pretty well and so we can make light of some of the things,” Komarek said.

One of those light moments came when the head of the CPR dummy came off, mid mouth-to-mouth.

But the students know it’s not all fun and games, “and also take it very seriously cause we know each other well.”

“Are you okay, are you okay?” shouts another lifeguard to the dummy before beginning CPR. Even though his subject is lifeless, an urgency marks his voice.

Instructors want to stress how important it is to always swim near lifeguards, in case a day at the beach or pool turns dangerous.

“For children, drowning is the second leading cause of death and so we want to make sure our community swims where it’s safe and that’s where a lifeguard is,” said Eder.

These four will keep training weekly all summer. They know it’s a small price to play, for the responsibility that rests on their shoulders.

“You gotta remember what you’re here for, to be able to protect people especially our kids at camp,” Komarek said.

“You gotta keep them in mind and think you’re doing this for a reason.”

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