The sights at Isle of Palms County Park beach Friday morning looked like a combination of an obstacle course and the TV show “Baywatch.”
The beach played host to the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association’s 16th annual lifeguard competition, featuring 10 teams of lifeguards competing to see who could most quickly and accurately complete a series of events.
The competition started at 10 a.m. with teams of lifeguards in red swimsuits taking the beach, and ordinary beachgoers becoming spectators to the events.
The events included an individual ocean swim, a simulated ocean rescue and an event known as beach flags, widely regarded as the most difficult event of the competition.
“Beach flags is intense,” said Amanda Bowles, a lifeguard in Myrtle Beach who made the trip down as a fun experience for her and her team.
Beach flags started with competitors lying face down, facing away from a set of evenly spaced pieces of pipe, called “flags.” When the whistle blew, the competitors sprinted to grab a flag. What made the event difficult was that there was one more competitor than the number of flags available, similar to musical chairs.
Ben Crutchfield, a 17-year-old Wando High School student, preferred the more physical event to swimming. When asked what he thought the hardest event would be, his reply was, “The swim, for sure.”
During the afternoon, the events shifted from the salt water off the beach to the chlorinated water of the pool.
The pool events, held at the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department’s R.L. Jones Center pool, included a 50-yard individual sprint swim, an obstacle course relay and a spinal injury management skill scenario.
The spinal injury scenario featured lifeguards approaching a victim in the water, then using proper techniques to stabilize and secure the victim to a backboard. The event was completed when the victim was safely stabilized and removed from the water.
The winners, a team representing the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, earned a trophy and bragging rights among Lowcountry lifeguards for the rest of the year.