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
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).
- 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.