SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — SPI lifeguards are winning medals and having fun competing in a variety of events this week at a four-day national championship in Virginia.
South Padre Island’s Lifeguarding National Team is competing in an intense and exciting United States Lifesaving Association Championship, which concludes today.
“About 800 lifeguards are competing from numerous places like California, the Gulf Coast, East Coast and Florida. There are also even lifeguards competing from Canada, Australia and a group from China competing this year,” Jim Pigg, captain of South Padre Island Beach Association, who is at the competition, said in a telephone interview from Virginia Beach.
“Everybody is excited about the competition and they work really hard to get to come out and participate in this.”
Lifeguards who want to compete are required to train for the competition and complete a certain number of workouts in the morning, not including their on-duty work.
They come in early before their shifts and are required to raise a certain amount of money to attend this yearly lifeguard competition.
“As you come out to these things multiple times, you start becoming friends with other lifeguards and start keeping in contact with them,” he said. “You form a bond and a friendship that you have throughout your lifeguard career and even after that.”
Pigg said there are even alumni lifeguards in their 50s and 60s who compete in events in this competition.
“They might not be actively lifeguarding anymore, they compete as alumni. But it’s definitely a builder in their lives and in their careers,” Pigg said.
Lifeguard competitor Andrea Moreno, 20, said her favorite thing about being a lifeguard is knowing that she’s “making an impact.”
“Preventing drowning is our number one goal. The fact that I get to go on the beach and help prevent that means a lot to me,” Moreno said.
So far, the 10-member team has won various medals. Melia Gore, 15, is South Padre Island’s first ever junior lifeguard who placed second in the “girls beach flags” event and fourth in the “2K beach race.”
Gore said “winning the medals in this super intense contest felt amazing.”
“There’s the best of the best here and everybody is really nice to each other. Team Texas is definitely pretty loud at cheering for each other. We definitely have the best group here,” Gore said in a telephone interview.
Mike Calandra has been a lifeguard for 10 years and has competed in this competition four times.
“The competition is very tough. We have the best athletes competing from all over the country,” Calandra said.
“So, coming here is a very humbling experience, but it is definitely an honor to be here with such great competitors and athletes.”
ABOUT THE COMPETITION
WHAT: 2018 USLA National Lifeguard and Junior Lifeguard Championships
WHEN: Aug. 8–11 WHERE: Virginia Beach, VA