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Editorial: Pay attention at the beach as lifeguard shortage looms

A shortage of skilled lifesavers means everyone needs to be vigilant around the water
lifeguard web
West Vancouver lifeguard Spencer Dicaire on duty in the summer of 2012.

Despite the gloomy weather, the start of summer is close at hand on the North Shore.

But local beaches are facing greater challenges than cloudy days.

Popular locations like Ambleside and Dundarave are also facing a lifeguard shortage, which means there may be fewer eyes on the water.

The lifeguard shortage has already hit pools around Greater Vancouver.

That’s resulted in fierce competition for dwindling spots in children’s swimming lessons, among other things. Parents have reported all available lessons being booked within minutes of them opening.

Ironically, fewer people are being taught how to swim and be safe on the water at a time when fewer lifeguards are available to provide proper oversight of public swimming areas.

This is not a formula for happy outcomes.

It’s been noted, for instance, that lifeguards respond to almost 200 incidents on West Vancouver beaches each summer.

There are many factors contributing to the shortage, including a lack of certification opportunities during earlier COVID-19 restrictions, plus the expense and time commitment involved. Young people who sign up for the job may also move on to different phases of their lives in a few years.

Those who have the necessary training may opt to work closer to their homes – which in many cases aren't on the North Shore.

We hope the moves on the part of West Vancouver to entice more people to sign on for lifeguarding are successful.

In the meantime, the public would do well to realize the tall red chair might be sitting empty some days at local beaches. Being vigilant around the water will be especially important. A life could depend on it.