If you ask Kevin Ferreira about the rewards of being a lifeguard, he'll give you a big grin and say "a great tan."
Ferreira, one of the head lifeguards at Hammonasset Beach State Park, also likes that being a lifeguard runs in his family. His is a lifeguard, also at Hammonasset. Their older brother Christopher was a lifeguard. Their dad was a lifeguard. Ferreira also likes being the victor in the Ironman division in last week's Trident Competition at Hammonasset Beach State Park. To win that award, Ferreira had to swim 1,000 yards, run 2.5 miles on road and beach, and paddle 1,500 yards faster than any other individual competitor.
Then he stops and says, "I'm not going to lie, every once in a while someone comes up to you and they're having trouble breathing or having some other kind of problem, and it's nice to know you can make a difference. Also, to be good lifeguard, you have to know how to take preventative measures so that people don't hurt themselves in the first place," he said.
"A boring day is a good day"
Is it sometimes a little like babysitting--only at a beach park where there are more than a million visitors each year, both from Ferreira's hometown of Madison and from all over the world?
"Yeah," he says, smiling again. "And a boring day is a good day."
To be a lifeguard at Hammonasset you have to have your American Red Cross Lifeguarding certification, which includes CPR for the Professional Rescuer, and Basic First Aid. Applicants who possess American Red Cross Waterfront Lifeguarding are preferred. It helps to be an expert swimmer, Ferreira says, and to know how to remain calm and relaxed when things are going well, and how to quickly gear up when something goes wrong.
Going from 0 to 60 in 2.46 seconds
"You can go from just sitting in the chair or talking about what you're planning for the weekend, to hearing on the radio that there is a search and rescue underway," he said. "Every situation is different and you have to grab the radio, react on your feet, figure out the situation and come up with an action plan."
Ferreira says it's also important to be a team player, and that the Trident Competition, held after the lifeguards' work day was done last Wednesday evening at Hammonasset Beach State Park, helps with that.
That's a sentiment echoed by Brandt Thomas, Ferreira's boss and beach director for the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection. "We use the competition as a training tool," he said. "Having the competition encourages them to train often and train together. Also, it allows the lifeguards from different parks to meet each other."
Working with the team, taking preventative measures to keep people safe, and working on that tan
In addition to the Ironman award, there is also a Trident award for the relay team that completes the three legs with the fastest time. This year, that award went to brothers Brian and Eric Sandrib, from Mount Tom State Park in Litchfield.
Ferreira says that being a lifeguard can seem like a great job, and it is. But he also says that people who want to become a lifeguard shouldn't go into it thinking it's all about lounging in the lifeguard chair or that it's all about the drama of pulling drowning people from the raging surf, even though lifeguards are sometimes called upon to do both.
"It's really more about working with your team and taking preventative measures to make sure people stay safe," he said.
Not bad for a day's work for Ferreira, his brother and their co-workers at Hammonasset and the other state parks, especially when you can get a great tan at the same time.