A nationwide shortage of lifeguards is washing up concerns heading into Memorial Day weekend.
While the beach is fun, Galveston Beach officials know it can also be a very dangerous place. On Tuesday, the Galveston Park Board of Trustees decided to raise the salary for lifeguards by about ten percent to $14 an hour, hoping to incentivize people to become human lifesavers.
“We’ll have all of our 32 lifeguard towers covered but some of the bells and whistles may not happen, we may not have a boat in the water or that kind of stuff,” said Galveston Island Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis.
Davis said part of the reason for the shortage is the J1 Visa program, which made it possible for foreign lifeguards to come to the United States and work for a few months, was shut down last year during the pandemic. The program is just starting to gradually open back up.
“We’re used to getting like 25 percent of our staff from the J1 program. We also had to shut our junior guard program last year down,” Davis said.
After a brush with drowning at 13 years old, beachgoer Destiny Weaver knows just how important lifeguards are.
“If he wasn’t there, I would have drowned that day,” Destiny said.
She considers herself a good swimmer that got caught off guard by a strong current.
“I thought I had the strength but I didn’t have the strength and I was little, and I was scared for my life. I just kept praying to God hoping that someone would come, and he came,” Destiny said.
As a nurse, her mother Teressa Weaver said she has seen other swimmers who weren’t so fortunate. She fears things could only get worse.
“Most people who come to the beach do not know how to swim waves,” Teressa said. “After the pandemic, everybody appreciates being able to be out and being together more, and especially in this type of environment I think there’s going to be a heavy flow this summer.”
To be on the safe side beach, officials said if you’re going for a swim, try to find a lifeguard tower with the flags up on it and stay close, that means a lifeguard is inside.
“That’s an extra layer of protection and a trained profession that can intervene if something really bad happens,” Davis said.
Galveston Beach officials say they’re looking to hire about 60 more lifeguards. The minimum age is 16 and the training program is about 100 hours.
Applicants will be required to complete a 500-meter swim in less than ten minutes.
To apply, visit.