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Practicing rescues

Newport Beach lifeguards prepare trainees for chaotic situations by staging difficult scenarios off of Corona del Mar shores.

May 14, 2007|By Kelly Strodl

David Lefstein fought to maintain control of a flailing victim Sunday, caught between the jagged edges of Ladder Rock just off the shore of Corona del Mar.

Lefstein, 19, and four others worked to pull an uncooperative group of people stuck between the rocks to safety. Playing the part of the victims were four Newport Beach Lifeguards doing their best to make the rescue as difficult as possible. But they had good reason.

Sunday's exercise was meant to prepare the group for high-risk situations, rescues that involve speed, rough terrain and other wildcards, such as panicking victims.

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"It's so hard pulling them out," Lefstein said. "The hardest part was wrapping and securing the buoy around the victim," while they kicked in the opposite direction.

Over the last four weekends, lifeguards John Carpenter, Brent Jacobsen, Josh Van Egmond and many others have been pushing young hopefuls like Lefstein to learn the basics of their craft by summer.

The group, which began with 45 trainees, has dropped by 9 and not all of those are guaranteed jobs this season. Positions will be filled based on staffing needs, spokeswoman Jennifer Schulz said.

Most of the eight training sessions already completed were spent on First Aid and CPR techniques. The last two weekends have been spent in high-risk situations, swimming through the piers pilings and dangerous rock formations, jumping off speeding boats and the pier.

The trainees are taken out by boat at 7 a.m. to the rocks about a mile south off Corona del Mar beach. Clad in brightly colored rubber swim caps, wetsuits and fins, the groups practiced rescues on the jetty rocks as well as Ladder Rock, Big Corona Beach and slung around on the back of a jet-ski.

On the boat the group was told to stay low, hold onto something, like the railing, at all times, and most importantly, control the buoy.

"It's chaos in here with a victim on the boat" and waves pushing the vessel in all directions, Van Egmond said.

In the rocks they were reminded to keep an aggressive voice with victims. "Yell to make sure they know what to do the first time," Van Egmond said.

Throughout the morning Van Egmond offered a number of valuable tips to the four groups of trainees, including pointers on how to walk across the boat and how to use your fins to feel for the tips of the rocks. He told the group to use their arms rather than hands to pull up on the rocks. In the cold water, at 56 degrees Sunday morning, your hands will not feel a thing until you warm back up, Van Egmond said. Then "your hands will feel raw and they will bleed," he said.

As if that wasn't enough for one morning, the teens practiced high-speed drops off the back of each boat on the return trip to lifeguard headquarters at Newport Pier.

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