East End beachgoers should feel very safe after a group of Hamptons lifeguards placed among the top five in the nation during the recent National Lifeguard Competition.
The National Lifeguard Competition is a five-day competition held in Hermosa Beach, California this year that includes lifeguard-related events such as swimming, running and paddling. Contests include distance paddle and Landline – a timed competition to pull someone back to land like an actual rescue.
“The cool thing about it is there’s no Southampton Town, there’s no East Hampton town, we’re all just Hamptons Lifeguard Association,” says Joey Badilla, a competitor this year for Hamptons Lifeguard Association.
In order to go to Hermosa Beach, lifeguards had to raise money for the Hamptons Lifeguard Association, the group for which they compete. The money goes towards funding the trip and other things for the association like water protection awareness and ocean rescues.
Badilla and his younger brother Nicky competed this year for the Hamptons Lifeguard Association, along with about 40 junior lifeguards and 60 ocean-certified lifeguards who represented the Hamptons. Joey’s twin sister Catalina couldn’t attend this year, but all Badilla children were lifelong competitive swimmers before becoming lifeguards.
Hamptons lifeguards get their start as kids when they can join the junior lifeguards around the age of 9. They’re given fun activities and events that prepare them for real lifeguard experiences. When they’re 16, they can become senior lifeguards and gain their ocean certification and CPR certification. Once certified in both, they can become lifeguards for the town and eventually compete in these kinds of events.
But competitions aren’t everything. Lifeguarding is a serious job, and Badilla couldn’t stress that enough.
“We are always on top of things. We work out every day, we’re always making sure we know what’s going on at the beach at all times,” he says. “We do a lot of drills so if there’s an accident, we always know what to do. It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Next year’s National Lifeguard Championship will be held in Virginia Beach.