From the age of 15 through 20, I was a lifeguard. I thought I was great at it. Working at a local pool, I got to stand around looking heroic, getting athlete’s foot, and for the most part, not doing very much. There was the occasional rescue, but for the most part, it was sticking bandaids on little kids, eating freezies, and flirting shamelessly. Looking back, it wasn’t real lifeguarding. What the people do at places like Puerto Escondido and on the North Shore of Hawaii… that’s real lifeguarding.
When Puerto turns on, it’s one of the most amazing beach breaks on the planet. The heroes in the surf world are the surfers–they’re the ones that get all the footage, the ones that we tune in to watch. But the real heroes are the ones looking out for them behind the scenes.
For a long time, big wave surfing was more about plain old insanity than anything else. Now, though, as it’s turning into a more organized endeavor, safety is coming to the forefront. Big wave surfing safety is a group effort, and more often than not, the surfers are trained as well. But the lifeguards are the ones that bear the brunt of the responsibility, and they take it very seriously.
The Salvavidas Lifeguards are no joke. Performing rescues in waves like the ones at Zicatela takes training, understanding, and above all, a thorough knowledge of how the waves work. Captain Godo has the place dialed, and because of it one of the most dangerous waves in the world is a little safer.