About 200 youths participated Friday in a series of challenges, including swim and paddle-board relays, hosted by the Pismo Beach Junior Lifeguards.
Four of the five junior lifeguard programs in San Luis Obispo County participated in the event, including the Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Oceano and San Luis Obispo County programs.
The Pismo Beach Junior Lifeguards program is celebrating its 20th year, said Rick Howard, fire captain and lifeguard administrator with Cal Fire/Pismo Beach. Howard has overseen the junior lifeguard program since it was created in 1994.
Teens and children ages 9 to 17 can participate in the Pismo Beach program, where they learn about ocean swimming techniques and hazards, local marine mammals, first aid and CPR, and rescues with and without equipment.
“They spend a lot of time doing a lot of running, swimming and paddling,” Howard said.
The program was initially created as a “farm league” to facilitate the hiring of lifeguards, he said. About 1 percent to 2 percent of participants do work as a lifeguard after their 18th birthday.
But the vast majority of junior lifeguards just want to be at the beach, in the water.
“For those kids who want to be there but are a little reluctant, we take baby steps,” Howard added. “By the sixth week, they’re charging through the water.”