Interview with Jon Edelbrock, Director of Community Services and Chief Lifeguard
Del Mar’s summer is coming and so are visitors to our beach.
Last summer, with Covid 19 restricting access to many venues, “beach visitor trends changed. Visitors came in record numbers. They came to the beach earlier, stayed longer and often late into the evenings,” reports Jon Edelbrock. As 2020 evolved, it was quite a year and along with it there were many “new and changing rules. As a team, we had to modify the way we work to best protect ourselves, to comply with public health orders, and to serve new and regular visitors.” The lifeguards managed to do so working within a citywide budget cut. “Generous donations from multiple community organizations including the Del Mar Foundation and the Rotary of Del Mar, allowed us to complete repairs to the Beach Safety Center, replace an aging vehicle, purchase some needed equipment and support training programs for our seasonal staff.”
This year brings in a new part time staff. “They have spent many hours participating in our in-house Academy where they learn general lifeguard skills, receive first aid and CPR training ready to transition into their first summer that will be filled with continual training and on the job experience. We also have a recurrent staff recently certified in SCUBA and Technical Rope Rescue.” Their rope rescue skills were shortly put to use helping a stranded visitor down from a ledge 30 feet above the sand.
There is one more issue the lifeguards are working on: Shark watch. With the understanding that shark bites are extremely rare, you might have noticed signage warning of shark sightings last summer. The lifeguards are now collaborating with researchers at Shark Lab, Cal State University Long Beach to track the movement of white sharks in the waters off our shoreline that serves as their nursery. FYI: their numbers have increased since 1994 when they received protected status. The tracking includes tagging sharks with acoustically transmitting darts, retrieving data from underwater receiver buoys and from aerial drones. With the Shark Lab’s guidance with identifications and shark behaviors, lifeguards are developing further signage and response protocols. On the bright side, the sharks snack on those pesky stingrays that actively strike swimmers and suffers.
Whether or not last year’s trend that produced a record number of visitors will continue, the lifeguards are more than ready to meet the needs of the community.