Barrie lifeguards show off rescue skills as they prepare for summer

Barrie lifeguards show off rescue skills as they prepare for summer

‘The pool is a controlled environment where you can see everything, whereas the beach is a bit more unpredictable,’ says Madison Campbell, who’s entering her fifth season

Their training is complete, sunscreen has been applied and the City of Barrie’s lifeguards are officially prepared to take their posts atop their towers for another summer at the city’s beaches.

Approximately 30 lifeguards, as well as members of Barrie Fire and Emergency Service (BFES), Simcoe County paramedic and Barrie police, took part in a rescue demonstration at Centennial Beach on Thursday, where lifeguards completed a submerged victim rescue, with BFES responding and deploying their technical rescue team to the scene.

Madison Campbell, one of the lead lifeguards at the beach this summer, told BarrieToday that 2024 will be her fifth summer as part of the city’s lifeguard team.

Campbell says that in addition to allowing her to get outside, the job also allows her the opportunity to provide a service to the community and keep swimmers safe.

Although she previously worked as a lifeguard at one of the city’s pools, lifeguarding at the beach comes with some unique challenges, she said.

“It has a lot of different environments that we can deal with. The pool is a controlled environment where you can see everything, whereas the beach is a bit more unpredictable,” said Campbell. “It’s really nice to have to be on your toes and use your quick-thinking skills while working in this area .”

This summer will be 17-year-old Tiernan Hayes’ first summer lifeguarding at one of Barrie’s three beaches, having also worked at a city pool for just over a year.

“I thought I might as well give the beach a chance,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being in a different environment. I feel like when you’re at the beach there are a lot more conditions than just the pool. It takes a lot more attentiveness and that’s something I’m excited to take into account.”

Hayes says he expects all of the city’s beaches to be extremely busy this summer, but he’s confident the team of lifeguards will have no problem handling anything that comes their way, especially following the extensive training they’ve been required to undergo in advance of taking their posts on June 28.

“Last year, I worked a triathlon in Wasaga Beach… There were a lot of emergencies and we had to do multiple saves. That helped me get prepared. It’s a scary job, but I feel like someone has to do it and I am happy that I am one of those people.”

Campbell says lifeguarding is also a great way to get to know people.

“You make a lot of friends, even the patrons at the beach you become friends with. It’s just really nice to have somewhere to come back to every summer. It’s a great job,” she said.

Although she’s never been involved in any of the major rescues that have occurred at one of the city’s beaches, Campbell has participated in several non-fatal rescues, paddling out and helping swimmers back to safety, she acknowledged.

If she could offer one piece of advice to beach-goers this summer, it would be that “if they don’t know, just ask.”

“We do have quite a severe drop-off here at the beach. It is marked by buoy clusters and goes from about six feet to 20 feet,” said Campbell. “If you’re not aware of something or don’t really know where you should be swimming… feel free to ask the lifeguards. We are friendly faces around here and we love to answer questions and ensure everyone is swimming safely.”

As a veteran lifeguard, Campbell says she’s excited to work with some of the team who will be hitting the sand for the first time this summer, noting although the role can be serious, it’s important to have some fun while you’re doing it, too.

“Enjoy it. It’s a short season and it’s really fun. Take the time to make it a good summer, make friends and just enjoy yourself,” she said.

Thursday’s demonstration served as a good way to kick off the 2024 beach season, and to showcase the skills the team has, explained Nick Selkirk, aquatics programmer for the beaches and Allandale Recreation Centre.

“We are super excited today. We got to showcase a lot of skills and work interdepartmentally with Barrie Fire and police … retrieving a ‘victim’ and conducting our submerge procedure,” he said. “We have had the opportunity to work together for the last week and a half so we’ve really been able to iron out any questions anyone might have.

“We’ve been working together seamlessly and (been) able to get comfortable with each other’s equipment and getting comfortable with how each department operates and reacts to different situations,” Selkirk added.

Lifeguards will be on duty seven days a week from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm at Centennial Beach and Johnson’s Beach — as well as Tyndale Beach for summer camps — beginning Friday, June 28, he noted.

“We are really excited and expecting lots and lots of people. We see guests come from all around… (and) our numbers are increasing every single year and this year with the warm weather we are expecting, we’re prepared for another very busy summer,” said Selkirk.

Minet’s Point Beach (10 Lismer Blvd.) and Tyndale Beach (45 Tyndale Rd.) do not have lifeguards. Parents and guardians are always reminded that ​children require direct supervision at the beach. Always practice water safety.