Name: Jennifer Rohles

Years of Experience: 17

Location(s): San Clemente, California; San Onofre Beach, California; Coronado, California

Swimming background my entire life as father was in the Navy and we moved every 3 years (San Jose, Norforlk,VA, Maryland, Japan, San Clemente).  Almost drowned in Hawaii in 5th grade (during the move to Japan) as I got caught in the machine wash.  The move to the desert was the most dreaded, but after a year I had been a S.C. City Jr. Lifeguard, body boarded and learned how to surf and then I was hooked.  We liked San Clemente so much my dad retired here. My sisters were both pool lifeguards in Japan and I followed one of them to work at Ole Hanson (pool in San Clemente).  When I turned 15 some of the swimmers tried out for Camp Pendleton as we were too young for any of the other agencies and they convinced me to as well.

Once I turned 16, I tried out for State because they paid a lot more, had more beaches and were better trained.  The surf was so big that year that they cancelled the Carlsbad tryout.  (Although I had been on the surf and swim teams and I had already been a lifeguard, I was very scared as I watched the returning guards with fins and buoys not be able to make it out and was wondering how I was going to attempt it.  I had to dig deeper than ever to stand on the beach for the tryout, and then have them cancel. )  The next weekend tryout was nothing compared to that (in fact no surf was ever like that) and so my State Guard seasons began.

Summers : California Lifeguard

1982-83(Winters 83-86) Pool Guard at San Clemente City Pool (14-17)(Lifeguard training on base with Marines)

1984-85 Beach Guard Camp Pendleton San Onofre Beach (Age – 15-16)

1985-1999 Beach Guard San Clemente State Beach (Pendleton Coast) (16-had to be 16 to be a state guard)

            Junior Lifeguard Director : 93-97 (Instructor 1990-97)

Summer 1998 – Beach Guard at Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado

2000 – didn’t lifeguard due to birth of my first daughter 8/15/00

Memories: 

At Camp Pendleton:

  • I was on my break when a lady touched her toe into water and I sprinted to get her.  Rip was pulling fastest and hardest we had ever seen and she was out 300 yards when I reached her, terrified.  This beach is known for it’s deadliest rip currents in southern California.
  • Best rescues due to rips, alcohol use and extremely muscular marines who sink (they no longer are allow alcohol use on beach).
  • Treating “Devil Pup(teenager in training for marines)” for heat stroke – unconscious: first time I remember calling 911 and didn’t know if he would make it

At San Clemente State Beach

  • First day at SC State beach on July 4 I thought I was being initiated by the guards as I got a report of a male hitting his wife with his prosthetic leg.  I tentatively still called it in expecting it to be an initiation (unfortunately it was real).  Debbie Friedman (First Female Peace Officer came and took the report).

Best Rescues/Memories:

  • Walking broken neck that we (Melissa Borio and I) convinced this man that we had to C-Spine him as a precaution.  Hard to convince him, but we did.  He had broken his neck.
  • Rescuing “Olympian swimmers” that couldn’t get out of RIP
  • Lifeguarding Trail #6 (naked beach) with all beach activities (volleyball, surfing, etc. ) rescues and first aids
  • Responding to call of a heart attack surfer at 8pm while off duty.
  • Swimming with a whale
  • Boat Rescues (and body surfing behind rescue boat)
  • Shark chasing all surfers out of the water
  • Digging out the vehicles for guards who got them stuck
  • Had an article written on me “Bay Watch” while at Coronado

Lifeguarding was the most influential job I have ever had.  Memories and experiences that prepare you for any job and Friends that last a LIFETIME!  I’m still friends and polo teammates with many of my lifeguard friends.

One of my daughters now works as a Beach Lifeguard for San Clemente City Beach.  It is a much more active beach than the ones I worked at.

Images provided by Jennifer Rohles.