The lifeguard at tower 61 was getting a little overwhelmed. She was moving as fast as she could, but the current kept moving swimmers toward the dangerous area by the rocks. She barely had time to move swimmers and get back to her tower before jumping back down. As she climbed up to her tower, she heard a whistle. She looked down and was relieved to see a man wearing a blue shirt blowing a whistle to remind swimmers to stay out of danger.

The dispatcher checked the Beach Patrol cellphone and saw that the special app had a couple of new notifications on it. One of the Wave Watchers had been on the way to fish at the San Luis Pass and noticed a bunch of people in the water. Another was riding his bike along the seawall and saw a bus full of small children in swimming gear pull up at an area without a lifeguard. The dispatcher called the area supervisors for the West End and the seawall and let them know.

On the Fourth of July weekend, the frantic parents of a lost 3-year-old child ran down the beach yelling for assistance. The tower lifeguard in the area asked them what was wrong, and they said they had lost sight of their child. After a quick check on the radio, the lifeguard referred them to the big tent behind the next tower, which was the designated place for the “Lost Child Detail.” When the parents approached, they found a woman in the distinctive blue Wave Watchers shirt sitting with a lifeguard. Both were using beach toys to play with several children, including the lost 3-year-old.

The Galveston Island Beach Patrol Wave Watcher Volunteer Program is a way for ordinary residents to join our team. It’s a mini lifeguard academy, which is free of charge. The Wave Watcher team serves as a force multiplier in our effort to prevent drowning deaths and aquatic accidents.

The academy is free of charge, and will cover topics related to Beach Patrol history and operations, as well as beach safety. Attendees will receive certifications in both CPR and as Certified Tourist Ambassadors.

Once through the academy, Wave Watchers will form a cadre of informed beachgoers who have “the eye.” They can spot trouble developing before it happens and notify us, or other emergency service groups, so we’re able to prevent the situation from escalating. This could happen in the course of their normal daily lives when they drive, walk, fish, surf, etc., along the beachfront. Or it could take place with a more organized activity. The level of commitment and involvement is completely up to the graduates.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the crew, contact us at beachpatrol@galvestonparkboard.org. There are no restrictions on who can participate and no physical requirement (like swimming, running, etc.). Everyone is welcome.

We have an academy that will be from 8 a.m. to noon April 8 through April 12. We need you to join our team and our lifesaving family.

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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