My name is Courtney Porfilio and I am currently 25 years old. I am from Myrtle Beach, SC and I am currently in the Physician Assistants’ Program at Methodist University, located in Fayetteville, NC.

I have had the privilege of working for North Myrtle Beach Ocean Rescue since 2013, making this my 8th season.

I got involved with the lifesaving service after a friend told me that he worked as an Ocean Lifeguard and naturally as a competitive swimmer, lifeguard, ocean lover and adrenaline junkie. I immediately asked how to sign up, and well the rest is history.

My first job at 15 years old was a lifeguard at a local waterpark and I worked there for a couple years before running into my friend that told be about Ocean Lifeguarding. The lure of ensure the safety of people on the beach and in the ocean called to me and I had to try it out. Going through the training academy for NMBOR challenged me and I gained a new respect for the ocean. I loved running all out into the water, navigating the waves and swimming out to the ‘victims’ we needed to rescue. Making rescues in the ocean required skill that takes practice and the more I practiced the more passion for surf rescue I found.

It was not just the rescues that brought me back day after day and year after year, I genuinely loved sitting on the beach in that tower knowing that I was the last line of defense for anyone that found themselves in trouble out in the ocean. As an ocean rescue lifeguard, I also got many opportunities to act in the first responder on the beach as we awaited paramedics. This not only fueled my love Lifeguarding but also my love for the medical field.

Lifeguard competitions. I do not think I need to say anymore to those of us that have had the privileged of competing at them. However, to those that do not know what I am talking about, Lifeguard competitions are held every year in July (SALA) and the most athletic, physically fit and talent lifeguards compete against each other over the course of 2 days. These competitions give us the opportunity to meet other guards from different beaches along the coast and share our common interest and passion for surf rescue with each other while having lots of fun.

Lastly, one of the best things of this job has been that being apart of Ocean Rescue your co- workers are more than just that, they are your family.

I have more than a handful of surf rescue experiences I could share but I think I will briefly share the ones that stick out the most to me.

My first year as a NMBOR guard I was stationed up in the south end of Cherry Grove and my summer was pretty quiet up until the day before the Fourth of July. It was on this day that I had my first ever rescue as an ocean lifeguard. I sat in my tower scanning the water when I noticed a large group of swimmers that had been standing waist deep on a sandbar suddenly be swept out to deeper water.

As I jumped off my tower and made my run to the scene unfolding in front of my eyes I called in my rescue and entered the water. When all was said and done I had pulled a total of 4 people from the water and my boarder guards, who followed me in, pulled another 4 people out. The group stated that it was as if the sand they were standing on had disintegrated from under their feet and they found themselves in deep water, unable to swim. This was not only my first rescue but the rescue of my career, even after 8 years and countless more rescues.

I have also conducted aided in an afterhours kayaker search and rescue mission which resulted in us successfully locating and rescuing the wayward kayaker from a thick, low tide mud pit in the middle of Waites Island.

My advice to other women looking to become lifeguards is just do it! Seriously, you will never regret the decision. Just ask my younger sister who I essentially forced to try it out when she turned 16. She gave it a try and has never looked back, with this being her 7th season as a NMBOR lifeguard. There is nothing out there that says women cannot be a part of Surf Rescue. To be honest in my experience some of the best watermen are actually waterwomen, just don’t tell the boys I said that!

Images provided by Courtney Porfilio.