Wave Watchers

Pictured are members of the latest Wave Watcher Academy practicing a buoy toss with Senior Lifeguard Kevin Knight.

We’re already for Easter, which for many is the real kickoff for beach time.

We know it’s Easter because John’s Beach Service is about to roll out hundreds of umbrella and chair setups for the first time of the year at Stewart Beach. Max Wilson, with help from his brother, Walter, has run this business for decades and has been gradually transferring it to his nephew, Matt Wilson.

This is an old style, first class business, and they do it well. They don’t set up before Easter because for such a large operation the weather is too fickle. If 20 canvases get wet it’s not such a big deal to lay them out to dry. But for John’s Beach Service, finding a time and place to lay out 300 to 500 umbrellas is another story.

When you’ve been in business for 50 years you learn to treat customers right, so they come back year after year. So, we’ve come to see the umbrellas up at Stewart Beach as the official start to busy beach time.

Easter Weekend is usually a huge holiday; sometimes it’s the equivalent of Labor Day Weekend. But unlike Labor Day, we have additional challenges like higher wind and waves, colder water, and higher “spring tides.” So, be sure and pick an area near a lifeguard and stay far away from any structures like groins and piers.

Also be alert for both hypothermia in the water and heat exhaustion on the land. Don’t swim at the ends of the island, remember drinking and swimming is a bad combination, and don’t swim alone.

We’ve got all 300 of our signs up on the beach with additional information on each tower, so be sure and look around for danger warnings. Of course, talk to the guard if in doubt.

Helping us out will be our 14 new Wave Watchers, who graduated from their academy a week ago. After 20 hours of content related to Beach Patrol operations, Wave Watcher procedures, currents and structures, search and recovery, and common marine life injuries, they’re loaded with information.

And that doesn’t count the certifications they all earned as Certified Tourism Ambassadors and CPR/AED. You’ll spot them with their signature navy blue shirts, ID tags, bush hats, and whistles up and down the beach. Our seasoned Wave Watchers have already been out there giving us extra eyes, moving swimmers, treating minor first aids, and letting people know what the hazards are. Now we’ll double the number of Wave Watchers force multipliers out there keeping us informed and safe.

There’s a vote coming up to renew the parking fees on the seawall, so be sure and get out there to vote your conscious. The city has done a good job of making sure that money is set aside to maintain the beach amenities. For my part, I’ve been impressed how the improvements on the seawall look, and I’m hoping we can renew that vote in order to maintain all the good things happening on the beachfront and keep the momentum going.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.

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