NAME: GEORGIA TONEY
LOCATION(S): NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA; CLEARWATER BEACH, FLORIDA
YEARS LIFEGUARDING: 6
My name is Georgia Toney and my dream of being an ocean lifeguard started when I was 5 years old. We went around the carpet answering the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer, “a lifeguard!” I started competitive swimming in middle school and started running distance on the high school track team. My very first job was being a lifeguard at a water park when I was 16. I remember telling someone it was my dream to become an ocean lifeguard one day and they thought it would be such a scary job, however it didn’t phase me.
I started lifeguarding at multiple YMCAs and various aquatic centers throughout high school and college as well. When I turned 19 I made the decision to follow my dreams and apply. I got a call back and started work at North Myrtle Beach Ocean Rescue. I worked there for 3 summers where I also taught the junior guard program. However, that wasn’t enough. I didn’t want it for just the summer, I wanted this to be my career. I looked into many beaches in Florida and California. My current job is lifeguarding at Clearwater Beach Patrol and I have been here 3 years and counting. The passion I have for my job is what keeps me motivated to workout and stay fit for it. The thing that keeps me pulled into this line of work is when I make a rescue and know I was the difference between life and death for that person. It’s the deepest feeling for me.
My very first ocean rescue in North Myrtle Beach is still my favorite. A little boy strayed from his parents and was being pulled out by a rip current. It felt like I was going on a roller coaster I was so excited. Once we got back to shore he was reunited with his family. My next most memorable rescue was still at North Myrtle Beach. I pulled in 3 grown adults all by myself that had been sucked out by a rip current. My best rescue at Clearwater Beach has to be the time two boogie boarders were getting pulled by the current at the jetty. One of the victims got tangled up and trapped on the rope we have to keep people away from the jetty.
The waves were huge that day causing her to hit the pylon each time and making it impossible to free her by myself. Two other guards came to help me and we were able to bring her to shore safely.
Advice I have for females looking to get into surf rescue is to not be intimidated by it being a male dominated field. At the end of the day, all that matters is you can swim and run just like them. Know how to make the water help you during rescues, you don’t need the muscles of Hercules. Also, be brave! When in doubt, go out!
Images provided by Georgia Toney.