Torrey Pines Lifeguard Reflects On 46 Year Career
Speaker 1: 00:00 The dream of being a lifeguard has captivated everyone from children at the beach to TV audiences. It seems like a life full of sunny days, ocean views, and heroics, and as recalled in the new book stories from sea level, it does involve heroics, but also terror and tragedy, along with laughter absurdity and a deep commitment to the people they serve after 46 years, San Diego and ed Von Raska his last day as a state lifeguard was Sunday. He's captured some of his most exceptional experiences and stories from his fellow lifeguards as a Testament to the life on the beach, in a new book stories from sea level, the heroic and humorous adventures of California's ocean lifeguards. He spoke recently with midday edition. Co-host Maureen Cavenaugh, Speaker 2: 00:47 And welcome to the program. Speaker 3: 00:49 Appreciate you taking the time to have me congratulations Speaker 2: 00:52 On your retirement and your long career. Speaker 3: 00:55 Thank you. Thank you. It's been a good run is being a lifeguard, Speaker 2: 00:58 Really a dream job. Speaker 3: 01:01 I believe it is, you know, most of our lifeguards that we hire are very young. There's 17, 18, and they're very idealistic and most of them have achieved some level of success in the swimming world. They're collegiate swimmers that are, some of them have full ride scholarships to colleges. Some of them are water polo players. Some of them are just great surfers, but for them, we take those young kids and we mold them. And then we kind of indoctrinate them with the fact that all of those great accolades that they've they've had for their whole lives is wonderful for them, but we become a lifeguard. You use all those skills for public service and in our estimation, that's when you really become a valuable member of the community. And then, you know, they use those skills to truly save lives. So yes, I do believe it. It is a tremendous profession Speaker 2: 01:46 And you have been a traveler, a spiritual seeker during your life. Do you find other lifeguards share those traits? Speaker 3: 01:53 One neat thing about our profession is, you know, we come in, I came in at 17 years old and I was mentored by a group of elders who were 24, 25. They'd been lifeguards for four or five years. And of course I viewed them with the ultimate of respect. You know, we, we joke and say, you know, it's an odd profession because we, we really do work together shoulder to shoulder. And we, we lay it out on the line sometimes when the surf gets big and, and there's nothing more rewarding than being able to go out in big surf and make a rescue where you realize you'd saved someone's life. And that's a tremendous bonding experience for people, you know, in this profession. And so we do love each other and my best friends are life guards and the whole world. And, you know, we joke and say, you know, life guards will be there dancing at your wedding often inappropriately by the way, but they will be there dancing at your wedding. Speaker 3: 02:42 And, and it's, it's really true. And now as I get older, I, I can't tell you how many lifeguard weddings I've been to and spoken at. And unfortunately now funerals that I'm attending for elder lifeguards that pass. So there's that camaraderie that is, I don't know of any other profession that allows us to have such an incredible bond with each other, but again, it starts by the nature of public service and the things that we do on the beach risking our hide. When we go out there and believe me lifeguards do risk their hide. When the surf gets there. As Speaker 2: 03:11 I said, stories from sea level, compile some of the really exceptional experiences that you've had over your career and your fellow life guards. Can you share one of your favorite stories from the book? Speaker 3: 03:23 I don't know that I have a single favorite just because the nature of the profession is the nature of life itself. I mean, there's days on the beach where it's a sunny day, the surface small, and the public gets into some, some kind of crazy predicament that we get involved with. Uh, and those are the funny stories. And, you know, as you can imagine, after 46 years of doing this, the book is a highlight reel. It's, it's my hand picked favorite stories for my entire career. And, and by the way, most of these do not involve me. This is an homage to my brothers and sisters who were involved in some of these incredible events. So some of them are really funny and people are laughing a lot at my stories. And then the next couple of pages that are crying because of the tragic nature of the profession. And then, and then they're inspired by the third story, you know, and there's, there's no greater compliment to me than to have that kind of feedback. How often do lifeguards Speaker 2: 04:12 And counter life and death situations, Speaker 3: 04:15 Any good lifeguard is able to really predict problems long before they happen. And quite often a guard will see a victim drifting towards a rip and they'll go early, they'll swim out. And just as the victim realizes, they're in trouble, they turn to shore and in mild panic and boom, the lifeguards right there. And they, the public is dumbfounded as to how the lifeguard knew that they were going to be in trouble. But in actuality, th those, those swimmers have been watched and the lifeguard saw what was happening long before they did, but mother nature does throw us curve balls. So we do unfortunately deal with a lot of tragedies. I mean, I think the average lifeguard deals with a life and death situation, probably about every two summers, where they are making a rescue where they realize without any doubt at all, if they hadn't been there, that person would have certainly drowned that little boy or little girl or grandmother, whoever it is would certainly have drowned. And they know that. And Speaker 2: 05:06 Of the people that you've tried to rescue and haven't been able to do they stay with you? Do those experiences stay with you? Speaker 3: 05:15 I reckon that I've probably made a thousand rescues in my career, and I don't remember the great rescues. I don't remember the successful events. I remember every single drowning bill, every single drowning is burned into my mind. And there are scars that we bear. I'm not saying it's our fault. And I, I will mentally try to convince myself to appease myself of, of blame, but I still think of those situations where had I turned left on the coast highway instead of right. Could I have been there in time? And those are the things, unfortunately that I probably will, we'll be reconciling on my death bed. Those are the things that I do ponder, and they do bother me well, Speaker 2: 05:56 When it's not interacting with the public can be kind of crazy. Sometimes. What kinds of questions do you get asked? Most often, Speaker 3: 06:05 One of the most common questions is, you know, like, are there sharks out in the ocean today? You know, of course, that's a funny question to us because they're there every day, but we get all kinds of questions and some of them are comical. We have people from back east that come out when they see the ocean for the first time. And I remember one gentleman told me he got, I thought it would, I thought it would be bigger, you know, and we love to have a fun time with the public. You know, we love to interpret this incredible environment that we work in. We educate the public when the dolphins are coming, which are almost a daily occurrence here at Torah. You know, when the dolphins are coming up the coast, we tend to call out to the public around them and let them know that they're there because you know, for someone visiting from Arizona, they're not going to see many dolphins in Arizona. So it's kind of a big deal for them, you know, and the kids who see a dolphin that could be the highlight of their summer. So we're purveyors of Goodwill. That's what we do. We want to serve the public. We want to educate the public. We want them to have a good day. We do that in any possible way. We can, Speaker 2: 06:58 I want to compile these stories from sea level. What did you want the public to learn about your profession? Speaker 3: 07:04 The motivating factor for me was two things. One I want the public to know. I want them to understand what we do because I believe wholly, as you can probably tell by my tone, in these, in these answers, I wholly believe in this profession. You know, this is a very noble profession that the valor and the, the actions that lifeguards do stand alone. That was the first reason. The second reason which was equally important to me was, you know, these people, these guards risked their lives. And in fact, 10 of the stories that are highlighted in this book, those guards were given the medal of valor to get a medal of valor in a profession that is based on heroics. In general, we swim out in rips by the nature of what we do. We, we swim out into dangerous situations and rescue people. So these are things that stand head and shoulders above anything that you can imagine. And as, as you read these stories, you'll, you'll get the feel for it. I want their families to know what they did. I want their children to know what they did because they deserve that. Speaker 2: 08:01 I've been speaking with Edward Raska. He is former head lifeguard at Torrey Pines, author of stories from sea level, the heroic and humorous adventures of California's ocean lifeguards. And it has been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for coming on. Speaker 3: 08:17 Oh my gosh. Moran, the honor is all mine. Thank you so much for letting me share my thoughts on lifeguarding with, with your listeners.