April 5, 2008

Lifeguard Beach Authority
Miami Beach, United States

I don't spend excessive amounts of time on the beach, yet it seems like not a day goes past that I don't hear the piercing cry of a safety whistle, or see the flailing hands of a lifeguard in his tower.

Beach warning flags

Yes, I understand the flag warnings on display and the riptide threats that ultimately claim lives from exhaustion (because folks don't know to swim parallel to the shore to escape them). And I also understand that lifeguards are like the police—no one likes 'em until they need to be saved.

Lifeguard and his ATV

But what I don't like watching are these guys bitching at people to swim closer to the shore when they're sometimes only 30 paces (or less) out. They jump out of their towers and zip over to the shore on their ATVs, and proceed to belittle the swimmer(s) in front of everyone, often for no apparent reason. Sometimes this leads to verbal altercations.

My problem is that I don't recognize the authority of any lifeguard on a public beach to tell me what to do. What if one zooms over to me and tells me he doesn't like where I'm swimming, and I refuse to follow his instructions? What municipal authority does this individual carry? Is it illegal to refuse the orders of a lifeguard?

Lifeguard nagging swimmers with a megaphone

I understand that they're the expert, and shouldn't be bothering me without a reason, but many of these guys aren't letting swimmers wade out past the waist-deep level on calm days. There's a lot of shallow water around the South Beach shore, as well as a large sandbar that you can easily walk out to—all within the buoyed swimming area.

It seems like this type of nagging is omnipresent in the United States. Laws, guidelines, and authority figures seem to nag and manipulate daily life like an annoying parent. Safety, cleanliness, and a reduction of chaos have been obtained at the sacrifice of personal liberty.

Boardwalk arrow

I don't like being told what to do, and resent the laughable little controls you find everywhere here—like the directional arrows spray-painted onto the boardwalk telling people what side they should adhere to, lest there be chaos on the wooden walkway.

The problem is that Americans are born into a controlling mindset, and have difficulty breaking free. The country loves to work itself to death, having pushed the notion of free time and travel into something obtained only after age 65, or crammed into a few short vacation days.

Perhaps the United States should adopt a new national tagline… I'm thinking of something along the lines of Arbeit macht frei.

Comments:

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

April 21st, 2008

The question of lifeguard authority still on my mind (reminded every time I hear their whistles blow), I decided to ask one what would happen "if the swimmer disagreed with you regarding where or how they were swimming."

"You mean if they refused to get out of the water or follow instructions? We can have them arrested."

Lovely. So much for swimming freely on a public beach.

The United States

dan

August 15th, 2010

I've been trying to find out the answer to this question as well. Please post if you find out more info regarding. Hopefully that 1 guard's authority isn't the same everywhere. got to be different in different municipalities, one would think.

The United States

Zack

April 12th, 2013

I was publicly berated at Sandy's Beach on Oahu by a Life-Guard before I even got into the water. I checked the Surf report before I went which showed 2-3 foot sets which are perfect for me to body surf in. i got to the Beach and Before I could get into the water I was approached and asked what were my intentions and I said to Body Surf and he drilled me with questions then said I could not get in the water. The next day I went to Makapu'u Beach and Body Surfed 3 foot waves all day. It is frustrating dealing with Life guards in Hawaii they think they are movie stars

The United States

D

July 29th, 2013

I've been surfing Malibu 3rd point since I was about 10years old, and spending most of my youth there the lifeguards were always friendly. Until recently (30 years later) now noticing a growing abuse of the little authority they have. Such as setting up a 20 to 30ft coned barrier around the tower? If anyone is to post up inside this they are met with attitude.Or telling some beach goers to move or take down their umbrellas. And this last weekend, after a day at the beach with my wife and 8 month old son, we are about to leave, and in effort to assist my wife in loading the last of our belongings, I rested my longboard at the base of the back of the tower. 30 seconds later I turn around and the lifeguard had put it on a trash can and glared at me. Are they allowed to touch my personal belongings? Are the towers now owned by lifeguards? Are there some new rules I am not aware of? My first emotion was to become aggressive with the guy, who buy the way looked like he had been rescuing more cheeseburgers than troubled swimmers, but I've got alot more to lose now raising a family. Any help would be much appreciated as I will continue to surf the same spot every week.

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