NAME: SARAI FLORES

LOCATION(S): BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, MEXICO

YEARS LIFEGUARDING: 7

My name is Sarai Flores, I´m 25 years old, I was born in La Paz, Baja California Sur (BCS), and at age 1 my family moved to Cabo San Lucas, BCS, where I grew up and got involved with the ocean. It all began in 2008 when with a simple invite I joined a juvenile group at Cabo San Lucas Firefighter Corps. In 2010 a new division opened up, called junior lifesavers (salvavidas juniors), and I signed up without knowing how to swim. Thanks to a 1-hour weekly class I started to learn to swim during six months. It was a fast progress, and three months after signing up I was already doing my first open water swims. Since then, my passion was attending every Saturday to train, wanting to learn more about water rescue. In the following years (2012-2013) I had the pleasure of assisting to three Aquatic Rescue Seminars in Los Cabos held by the non-profit organization called Surf Lifesaving del Sur™, where active and retired San Diego City Fire-Rescue Dept. lifeguards provided free of charge surf rescue training.

That NGO was founded by Jimmy Canale (retired SD City lifeguard sergeant) and Laine Pepper (retired SD City lifeguard marine safety officer). Assisting them as instructors were Mike Lewis, Lance Mendoza, Darell Esparza, Tim Cicchetto and Ashley Marino (currently a SD City lifeguard sergeant). All their knowledge, dedication, patience and love for the profession, grew my interest in lifesaving even more and I became their admirer. I wanted to be like them, but how? I didn´t have the means, I was just a volunteer lifesaver (salvavidas voluntaria) with basic training. However, that same year I moved back to La Paz to start studying Fisheries Engineering at the Baja California Sur Autonomous University, and as I had met the lifeguard supervisor at one of those Aquatic Rescue Seminars in Los Cabos who was assisting as an instructor, I contacted GLC Aquatic Safety Dept. and got a scholarship for my first Emergency First Response® course. Afterwards, I got my first job as a recurrent open water lifeguard.

GLC Aquatic Safety Dept. (ASD) opened up the doors to a world full of knowledge and professionalism to me. I can say that I was the first paid female lifeguard in the state of Baja California Sur at age 19. Since then, every year I guard at the ITU (International Triathlon Union) PanAmerican Cup (where I had to rescue an unconscious female competitor in 2015 in the middle of a mass rescue). I have also lifeguarded at various editions of the Los Cabos Ironman®, I have been an instructor at ASD´s Junior Lifeguard Program in La Paz, and a CPR, AED & First Aid instructor.

I have also lifeguarded at production sets for FOX® “Paradise Hotel” reality TV show for 42 days in a row, VH1® “TI & Tiny Friends & Family Hustle” reality TV show, Nautica® catalog ad campaign and a series of Pacifico® beer commercials called “Anchors Up” for Crown Imports. Among my favorite assignments were lifeguarding on board the Pacific Monarch for a 5-day shipboard marine expedition and working on sailboats here in the Gulf of California.

As a professional ocean lifeguard, I am now trained and certified in ICS-100 and ICS-200 by FEMA (US Federal Emergency Management Agency) in Incident Command System, in addition to being a disaster first responder being a volunteer member of the BCS CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), and to date I have responded to Hurricane Odile, Tropical Storm Lydia and one wildfire. Now during this CoViD-19 Pandemic, we have been delivering food packs to families in low income neighborhoods suffering from the economic impact of this disaster, as well as responding to some non SARS-CoV-2 related medical emergencies.

What I like the most of being a lifeguard is preventing incidents from happening in the first place, getting to know new places and people, rescues and the daily experiences at the beach and in the ocean. At one of my shifts I got to meet the daughter of Bob Burnside (may he RIP), inventor of the modern rescue can and in another opportunity I got to meet Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the world famous explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

Images provided by Sarai Flores.