Beach Guards Save Lives with Surfboards (Aug, 1939)

Wow, those surfboards look like they are about 20 feet long.

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Beach Guards Save Lives with Surfboards

By JOHN E. LODGE

THROUGH his powerful telescope atop the guard house at Venice, Calif., Myron Cox observed the figure of a young woman swimming slowly in the breakers. “Feet down, elbows out,” he muttered. “Better get that baby.”

Captain Cox, chief of the life guards who protect 10,000,000 bathers along the ocean beaches of Los Angeles, Calif., every year, raced down the stairs and grabbed up a hollow paddle board.

Grasping the board midway along one side and holding it under his right arm, he gripped the upper edge with his left hand to prevent it from swinging. With the board in this position, he ran into the water. Reaching ankle depth, the guard suddenly crouched, dropped the board forward and flat on the water. Without checking his momentum, Cox flung himself on the board. Supporting himself by one foot and both hands, he adjusted his balance, sank to a prone position, and started paddling. Three times faster than he can swim, the captain plowed through the waves and on over quiet water to the tiring swimmer.

Laying his course a few inches to one side, he rode by without slackening speed, grasped the girl’s arm, and as the board stopped moved to a sitting position, well back of center. Quickly he grasped her arms, pulling them across the board until her chest touched the edge.

“Breathe deeply,” he instructed. “Relax.”

When she had regained her wits and breath, Cox seized the back of her bathing suit, slid her inch by inch onto the board until she lay at full length, face down. Then he reclined back of the victim, and, with powerful overhand strokes, paddled ashore. When they reached shallow water, he slid off and gently lifted the girl to dry sand.

“Three seconds may spell the difference between life and death in a rescue,” Cox will tell you. But paddle boards and a host of other aids including two-way radio communication with fast motor boats, special life-saving belts, chutes for launching the boards at pier ends, and beach patrol cars carrying inhalators and other first-aid equipment are helping guards to reach exhausted swimmers in time.

Treacherous rip tides, strong outgoing currents centering at one point, necessitate a fourth of all rescues among bathers at southern California beaches. Small-boat disasters, physical exhaustion, cramps, nonswim-mers wading in over their depth, strong swimmers trapped by strong tides require immediate aid. When tragedy threatens beyond the breakers, the guards swing into action, converging on a victim from both land and sea.

Not long ago, two swimmers were seen to be laboring in heavy swells off Venice. Guard Floyd Hagan, in the tower at Avenue 30, lifted his telephone from the hook, grabbed a life belt, and raced into the surf. At headquarters, several blocks distant, John Dillon caught the flash on the switchboard. When Hagan failed to answer, Dillon shouted to his aides, “Hagan’s in the water. Start the truck.” Turning back to the radio, he spoke these words quickly: “Station WXYL calling WXYK. Go to Avenue 30. A Rescue.”

Through a porthole in the tower room, Dillon saw the crew of El Salvador, the rescue vessel, start the engine, cast off the lines, and swing the boat out. Meanwhile, as the little boat slithered at automobile speed through the sandbusters, Hagan reached the swimmers. Around the weaker, he snapped the rubber life belt. Supporting one and towing the other, he swam directly toward the boat. Ninety seconds after first noticing their weakening strokes, the guards had both men safely aboard and were roaring back to the pier.

Occasionally, an unfortunate swimmer goes down the proverbial third time before a guard reaches him. But the guard is prepared to dive underneath and catch the victim on the way up. In cases requiring prolonged diving, the life-saving specialists wear single-pane goggles covering both eyes. These increase their range of vision under water.

All tricks, both mechanical and physical, are pointed toward greater speed in reaching those in need of help. Preston Peterson, champion paddle-boarder, recently designed a “peer-a-scope” through which guards look directly into the water. Through a magnifying glass at the bottom, Santa Monica guards can identify objects eighteen feet below the surface. Thus they locate drowning persons who have gone down for the last time.

Guards take nothing for granted when starting a rescue. If a swimmer appears to be weak, or should a crowd gather on the beach, away they go. It may be a false alarm this time, but the next trip may save a life. Alertness does save lives, too; not one accidental drowning occurred among the millions of bathers on Los Angeles beaches during the last year.

3 comments
  1. Walt Stevens says: March 31, 20088:56 pm

    I worked forr L A City under Myron Cox from 1954 to 1966. Few people know that he was also a professional wrestler before accepting the position as Chief Lifeguard for the City of L A.
    He was a soft spoken giant of a man and never wore shoes while in uniform. I widtnessed him putting out a lit cegarette with his bare feet on the black top of the old venice pier parking lot. I asked him “didin’t that hurt?” He replied, with a quizical look, “What?” I clearified my question and he said, ” Ah no Steve. These old feet are so calassed on the bottom I can’t feel it.”
    Myron was one of my heroes along with Capt. “Cuss” Bud Clark. Capt. Bud told me, on my first day of lifeguarding, ” You better be a good lifeguard or I’ll kick your ass around this lake!” (Crawley Lake)

  2. Walt Stevens says: March 31, 20088:58 pm

    I worked for L A City, under Myron Cox from 1954 to 1966. Few people know that he was also a professional wrestler before accepting the position as Chief Lifeguard for the City of L A.
    He was a soft spoken giant of a man and never wore shoes while in uniform. I widtnessed him putting extinguishing lit cegarette with his bare feet on the black top of the old venice pier parking lot. I asked him “didin’t that hurt?” He replied, with a quizical look, “What?” I clearified my question and he said, ” Ah no Steve. These old feet are so calassed on the bottom I can’t feel it.”
    Myron was one of my heroes along with Capt. “Cuss” Bud Clark. Capt. Bud told me, on my first day of lifeguarding, ” You better be a good lifeguard or I’ll kick your ass around this lake!” (Crawley Lake)

  3. Chuck Hagan says: January 4, 20092:56 am

    The Floyd Hagan mentioned in this article was my father. While I never really knew him as he passed away when I was very young. I have tried to research his past to find out more about him. I did know he was a lifeguard for many years, was an Olympic swimmer and a friend of Johnny Weissmuller. He passed away in 1965 when I was 10-years old, but had divorced my mother when I was only 3-years old. I would be very interested in anyone who knew my dad.

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