It’s hard to believe that we’re already to Memorial Day Weekend. Looks like sunny skies, some surf and high tides, but overall really nice weather.

If you’re one of the several hundred thousand we’ll see on the beach this weekend remember to be safe while you’re out having fun. Specifically, swim near a lifeguard, stay far from the rocks, don’t swim alone, obey warning signs and flags, take precautions for the heat and sun, remember alcohol and water don’t mix, watch your children closely, and for non-swimmers and children especially — wear a lifejacket when in or around the water.

Our friends at the Houston-Galveston National Weather Service office are predicting some rough water and strong rip currents over the weekend, so be extra careful. If you’re not sure about anything check with the lifeguard. All hands will be on deck so we’ll have really good coverage at all the parks, groins and even on the West End, including the San Luis Pass.

We’re also getting some help from the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management Community Emergency Response Team in the form of extra patrols at the San Luis Pass. We have a new crew of lifeguards that just completed over 100 hours of training that will be out working with the more experienced guards. And we’ll have yet another lifeguard academy start on June 15, so be on the lookout for some new guards.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity with the lifeguard academy going on, all the re-training of recurrent seasonal lifeguards, dispatch training, Jet Ski rescue recertification, taking care of all the last minute details on the beach, bringing water safety material to the hotels, final checks on equipment and making sure all our personnel are good to go. We also got a very generous gift from The Moody Foundation in the form of some bicycle lights for our staff and that of the Coastal Zone Management and Beach Parks departments. Since lots of our staff rely on bikes for transportation, this is a really nice way to keep them safe.

The final physical exercise for our lifeguard academy was Wednesday where our entire staff, minus the ones that guarded and facilitated, competed in the dreaded “Night Swim.” This includes all kinds of challenges including runs, swims, rescue board paddles, calisthenics, a wall climb, knowledge checks and other torture stations. Once our rookie lifeguards finish this they know they’re able to face any kind of physical challenge, which translates to a more effective lifeguard force. Plus the returning staff can measure themselves against the rookies while re-orientating themselves to rescue work in rough surf.

Happy holidays from all of us here at the Beach Patrol and hope you and yours get a chance to take some time over the holiday to celebrate in whatever way that’s best for you. If you join the other hundreds of thousands on the beach, please swim safe and swim near a lifeguard.

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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