History of Lifeguarding in California

Robert Isenor surveys the beach from the Huntington Headquarter, 1950's

Aquatic safety in parks dates back to the earliest days of our department.  The first wardens, custodians or rangers no doubt thought about seasonal water flow and levels, and the dangers in the rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls in their parklands.  They knew safe crossings, the impacts of flooding, the good fishing spots, and picnic spots where wading pools might be.  As appropriate, they had tools like canoes, rowboats, lines and even grappling hooks.

Wherever we came in contact with water, we had to deal with the potential dangers associated with this dynamic element.

The use of lifeguards on beaches in California began in the late 1930’s. The beach was inexpensive recreation in the post Depression era.  Communities grew around seasonal beach attendance.  Transportation improvements made the beach accessible to the inland communities.  The influx of swimmers into the surf-zone in Southern California lead to drowning on a sometimes massive scale.

To learn more visit: PARKS.CA.GOV

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2 thoughts on “History of Lifeguarding in California”

  1. I’m with Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association. We publish an e-magazine to our membership twice a year. I’d really like to put in your article on the history of California Lifeguarding.
    Ed Neely


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