There was no missing the smiles aimed in the direction of the guys I was chatting to on the beach! This was one cute bunch of guys, and the girls giggling on their beach towel were clearly attracted to them.
Is there more to these soccoristas than good looks? I spent an afternoon watching El Médano’s lifeguards train to find out.
It was a quiet day, midweek, and this was a training session, nevertheless of the five guys, only three trained, the others remained vigilant. The sea was choppy, so there were few swimmers, but plenty of wind and kite surfers were out. The training was relentless. They performed simulated rescues one after another for over an hour and a half, charging across the beach at a signal that a swimmer in trouble had been spotted, and then for a further hour using a jetski for rescues further from the shore.
All beaches in the Canary Islands hoping to be awarded the European Blue Flag must have lifeguards during peak hours, and they must have completed a course approved by ESSCAN (Escuela Socio Sanitario de Canarias). This covers first aid, CPR, water rescue techniques, use of water rescue equipment, and usually includes surf rescue using jetskis and boats, but training and practice is constantly ongoing. It doesn’t stop once qualified.
Water sports enthusiasts flock to El Médano, but the potential problems on family beaches like Costa Adeje or Playa de las Americas are different. The lifeguards aren’t there just to do water rescue, they attend to sunburn, cuts and sometimes dehydration. In Arona’s Playa Las Vistas they are able to offer facilities for disabled visitors to enjoy time in the ocean too.
I asked about equipment. They have those familiar floats we’ve seen on TV, but otherwise it varies according to the beach. The swimming area is considered to be up to 200 m out from the beach, and few people go further than that on tourist shores. In Granadilla de Abona their brief is to cover the entire coastline, so they have the jetski available for quick access from El Médano to La Tejita for instance, or to reach a surfer in trouble far out. In other areas they have boats available. In Arona they use quads to move quickly from beach to beach, and El Médano’s soccoristas have a 4 x 4 at their disposal.
I asked how many times per week they would expect an emergency call. “In El Médano,” they said, “probably 2 or 3.” In Candelaria, where one of the guys had worked previously, the record number of callouts was 13 in one day, due mainly to people ignoring the red warning flag, which signals that swimming is prohibited – that could be for several reasons from dangerous swells to contamination. Risk is calculated by factoring in the state of the ocean, number of people on a beach and type of people on a beach (risk groups being the elderly, disabled or children). In Los Cristianos they would expect to attend 4 or 5 first aid calls per day, from heart attacks to jellyfish stings.
Do they get compared to “Baywatch?” “Yep,” they grinned, “but we’re a lot more serious.” Best advice? “Take notice of the warning flags, and if in doubt, ask.”
Category : beaches
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