Lifeguard candidates put their bodies to the test at Ocean Safety tryouts

Lifeguard candidates put their bodies to the test at Ocean Safety tryouts

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Aspiring lifeguards took the plunge Friday at Ala Moana Beach Park, putting their bodies to the test to land an often-dangerous job at one of Oahu’s beaches.

Eleven men and women, all seeking to ace the Ocean Safety & Lifeguard Services tryout, quickly learned that the tryouts are sink or swim.

“I trained for it. Still, it’s a lot different training in the pool than it is in the ocean,” said Justin Sarsuelo, a pool lifeguard in Kailua.

The first event, which is called the Thousand-Thousand, was a 2,000-yard race against a stopwatch. It involves running 1,000 yards down the beach from the start of the test and swimming 1,000 yards back.

Prospective lifeguards have 25 minutes to finish the test — finish in 25:01, and you’re disqualified.

“All the blood rushes to your legs, and you’ve got to control your breathing. Definitely, the hardest part for me was the Thousand-Thousand,” said Kaimana Gomes, a swim instructor.

Ocean Safety has a lifeguard force of more than 240 Water Safety Officers, and there are only a handful of openings. The city needs to hire 10 to 12 new lifeguards, all of whom will start as contractors.

The candidates also had to finish a 300-yard run-swim-run test in under three minutes, and power a paddleboard 400 yards in less than four minutes.

“It’s definitely not easy, but when you’re doing these life-saving jobs, you gotta be willing to push the limits,” said Gomes, who participated in Friday’s tryout.

The physical test is just the first step to becoming a lifeguard. Pass the tryouts, and it’s on to four weeks of intense classroom, medical and field training.

Ian Forester, one of the city’s Ocean Safety officials, says the department is looking for more than just strength and endurance.

“We’re definitely looking for people with good attitudes that are willing to serve the public and the community,” he said.

Eleven people entered Friday’s tryouts, but only five made the final cut. Sarsuelo just missed qualifying in the paddleboard trial, but promised to try again because he really wants to be a lifeguard.

"No better place to call our office home than right at the beach," he said.

Gomes, meanwhile, qualified to move on to the next round.

“The water is a part of my life. If I could get that as a daily thing, I’d be totally happy,” he said.

Ocean Safety says it plans to hold another recruiting session on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. at Ala Moana Beach, near Lifeguard Tower 1B.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.