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A day in the life of a Lifeguard

Sitting in a theatre screen that’s showing Baywatch, between the ogling at the likes of Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Dwayne Johnson and Alexandra Daddario and rating the film, less than flattering comparisons were often made to the lifeguards manning the Goan beaches.

Story: Karsten | Miranda | 11th June 2017, 04:06 Hrs

While that’s not uncommon to hear, a day in the life of a lifeguard is no joking matter. Especially, when it comes to rescuing tourists and 
locals alike – a matter of life and death. It may not be as glamorous, but to the 3,000 plus people who were rescued between 2008 to 2017, the lifeguard was certainly their superstar for that day.  
Currently, the lifeguards face what 
is considered to be one of the 
toughest periods given that the monsoon weather conditions make the sea a dangerous place for anyone to swim in.  
Just recently, two fisherman in their fifties from Quepem ventured into the sea in a small fishing boat from Mobor  in Cavelossim. After venturing 400 meters into the sea, the fishing boat caught a late wave and turned turtle, throwing the men into the choppy waters. Lifeguard Bapu Tari manning the point at Mobor at that time spotted the incident and rushed to their aid with a rescue tube after relaying a rescue message to the lifeguarding tower alerting fellow lifeguards. While lifeguard Sarvesh B Gaonkar set off on the jet ski to reach the spot and secured both the victims bringing them safely back to the shore, lifeguard Lavu Gaonkar reached the spot with a jet ski and brought back the marooned fishing boat ashore.  
And, this is the third instance of a double rescue by lifeguards in the past four weeks.  
Through the month of May till June 8, a total of 20 rescue incidents were recorded and reported. A total of 22 individuals were rescued along the beach stretches in the swim and non-swim zones.  
Drishti Lifesaving cautions locals as well as tourists not to venture into the sea presently as the weather conditions can be unpredictable.  
Drishti has employed over 600 lifeguards to man the coast.
On an average, Drishti deploys 14 lifeguards across the 40 coastal areas in Goa (38 beaches, Dudhsagar Waterfalls and Mayem Lake). On the popular beaches such as Baga, Calangute and Colva, Drishti deploys 22 lifeguards on an average. Goa’s beaches have a total of 35 lifeguard towers.
The first thing Drishti lifeguards do in the mornings is to scan the coast for obstacle points and the flags are placed accordingly. Sea conditions change according to wind patterns and tides. These can differ on an hourly basis. Climate, wind patterns, tides and other conditions can play a role.
When asked to comment on what are the common factors behind drowning cases, as a message to swimmers, lifeguards observed that most cases of drowning occur due to the influence of alcohol, rip currents or underwater currents and when people have had a heavy meal that makes it difficult for them to swim. The risk of drownings is high between 12 noon and 4 pm, they added.
When asked to recollect their most dangerous rescue attempts, Ashwin Anil G, 32, a lifeguard at Drishti Lifesaving Pvt Ltd for the last 8 years, had a gripping story.  
“Yes, there have been 2-3 instances where I was drawn into the water while saving a victim, however that is where all the effort in training and equipment kicks in. Our training and equipment helps us ensure personal safety. One incident which I recall in particular, took place during the peak of the monsoon season. A Russian tourist had ventured into the waters at Calangute. While swimming he got caught in a rip current and started drifting deeper into the sea. He signalled for help. Three of us rushed into the rough choppy sea to save him, two with surfboards while I was with the rescue tube. Due to the high waves and rough weather conditions it was not possible to use the surfboards to rescue him. So when I ventured into the area where the tourist was, with my rescue tube, I too got trapped in the rip current and started drifting along with the rip current. However, having practiced this in training many times, I knew what I had to do; I secured the tourist, then had to call for a jet ski to take the victim and myself back to the shore,” said Ashwin.
Lifeguards added that what is most needed while lifeguarding at the coast is physical strength and fitness, proper techniques and training and the various equipment. They further emphasied that mental stability is the most important to be able to take the right decision at the crucial hour.  
Incidentally, lifeguards have to undergo yearly revalidation courses. The programme is conducted by the Special Rescue Training Academy (SRTA). The successful trainees are re-certified as lifeguards for another one year while those who don’t succeed are given time of two months to re-appear for the same, failing which they do not get re-certified as lifeguards.  
In view of the monsoons, Drishti lifeguards and members of Goa Police recently met for a detailed discussion and deliberation session to ensure safe and secure movement on Goa’s beaches. The session was aimed at improving security along Goa’s coastal beach stretch and better coordination on how to improve the experience of people visiting the beaches of Goa.  

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