July 22, 2008

Standout Lifeguards

FRESH FROM winning a regional lifeguard competition in North Carolina, Virginia Beach's lifeguards pulled 21 people from the water Saturday. Kitty Hawk lifeguards rescued nine swimmers. On Thursday, lifeguards in Duck and Southern Shores had 72 water rescues.

No one died in the waters off Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks last weekend, thanks to the tough, relentless work of the lifeguards, some of whom had just returned from taking top honors in the South Atlantic Lifesaving Association's regional competition last week.

Rip currents - narrow, fast-moving channels of water that flow from the surf to deeper water - have swept up swimmers and pulled them away from shore. They're responsible for a majority of the drowning deaths at the beaches each year. And lately, spawned by storms, they've been particularly active.

The frenetic rescues by lifeguards are a reminder of how easily a perfect beach vacation can turn tragic. And how seriously swimmers, even knee-deep waders, must take warnings of rough water.

The honors won in the lifeguard competition confirm what a lot of lucky swimmers learned the hard way over the weekend.

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