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Chronology Time-Line

1938
Doheny, San Clemente State Beaches have lifeguard services provided by county of Orange.

1950
State begins development and operation of Huntington State Beach.  Division of Beaches and Parks explores concept of contracting lifeguard service at the newly developed park but elects to start own service after consulting with lifeguard services up and down the coast.  Robert Isenor, a former Newport City Lifeguard is hired as a seasonal employee to develop the first State Lifeguard program.  He hired 17 seasonal lifeguards, who worked out of ten towers with no phones or radios and were supported by one jeep.  State Lifeguards performed 27 swimmer rescues that first summer.  Beach attendance was 211,000 that year.
                                                         
1951

Silver Strand State Beach is opened and Isenor coordinates hiring of seasonal lifeguards for this operation.

1952
San Clemente State Beach is now guarded by two seasonal lifeguards.  First use of mobile radio at Huntington.

1953
Robert Isenor is appointed in first full time lifeguard classification as District Lifeguard Supervisor with a starting pay of $341 per month.  Summertime beach operations are coordinated by Seasonal Beach Lifeguard Supervisors at each park unit.  The Boy Scout National Jamboree brings 14,000 scouts to Huntington State Beach and Isenor’s crew is acknowledged in Life Magazine for their outstanding safety record during this event (no drownings).

1954
Service started at Ventura and Carpentaria.  Isenor is designated as first Lifeguard Peace Officer, July ’54.

1955
State provides two seasonal lifeguards at Carlsbad State Beach and begins own service at Doheny.

1956
First requests for a Permanent Lifeguard Classification initiated.  Positions requested for Carlsbad, Doheny, Silver Strand and the Salton Sea.

1957
State considers providing service at Folsom, Pajaro, Stinson and Half Moon Bay.  Permanent Lifeguard Classification established.  Folsom, Santa Cruz and Stinson get seasonal guards.

1958
Department develops an Aquatic Safety Program, tasking every park unit in the state to identify its aquatic recreation resources and hazards.  Seasonal lifeguards provided at Torrey Pines.  First budget request for a rescue boat at Huntington State Beach.  Mel Tubbs become first Department sanctioned SCUBA Diver at Huntington.  First Seasonal lifeguards provided at El Capitan.

1960
Lifeguard Service starts at Bolsa Chica State Beach (once known as “Tin Can Beach” before work crews cleaned it up!).
                                                     

  Clean-up of Bolsa Chica





1962
Lifeguard testing and training is formalized to include 1000 yard swim, 600 yard run-swim-run and 20 hours of in-service first aid and rescue instruction.  Training is held at each park unit.


1964
Lifeguard Rescue Boat “Surfwatch” launched & makes dramatic mass rescue of 36 victims from one rip current at Huntington State Beach.  Second Rescue Boat, “Sea Ranger” is launched at Salton Sea: lifeguards provide six months of service at Salton Sea.

Late Sixties
Department creates Aquatic Specialist and Lifeguard Supervisor positions.  California State Lifeguard Association is formed.  Lifeguards successfully lobby for Safety Retirement.  Formal statewide Lifeguard Training is instituted at Huntington for all new lifeguards.  State Parks develops the first planned recreation area at Lake Perris.

Isenor continued directing lifeguard services for 33 years, retiring in 1983.  At one time there were a total of four Aquatic Specialists coordinating the programs throughout the state.  Today there is one Specialist assigned the oversight for the entire Park System.

1973
Isenor pushes to have the Permanent Lifeguard series included in the peace officer training and California State Parks becomes the first agency in the nation to have armed lifeguards with full peace officer powers.


1983 – 1984
Due to the high turnover of Ranger personnel assigned to Huntington and Bolsa Chica State Beaches, positions are converted to the Lifeguard series and Lifeguards are given the responsibility of operating one of the largest beach operations--day and night. 

1987
In response to growing a boom in population, dramatic increases in recreation usage, and numerous drownings along the Central and Northern California coastline, a budget change proposal is approved that places lifeguards along the Russian River coastal area, more than doubles the size of the Santa Cruz seasonal lifeguard operation, and places two permanent lifeguards in the Monterey District.

Spring 1995
Los Angeles County threatens to remove their lifeguard operation from State Beaches in Los Angeles County.  State lifeguards performed the single most historic marshalling of lifeguard resources in California history in May 1995, when the County of Los Angeles removed their lifeguard service from eight State owned, but County operated beaches.  State Lifeguards served 14,000,000 visitors, performing over 4,000 rescues on those beaches and had no drownings that summer

California State Parks now operates one of the largest professional lifeguard services in the world, with more than 600 seasonal and 70 full time lifeguards and supervisors.  The service spans more than 600 miles of diverse coastline from the Sonoma Coast to the Mexican Border, and inland bodies of water from Folsom and Clear Lake to Lake Perris and Silverwood.  State lifeguards annually perform more than 10,000 swimmer rescues, save millions of dollars of boater property; perform 6,000 medical aides, swift water rescues, urban flood rescues, technical cliff rescues and the full range of law enforcement duties. 

2001
California State Parks celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the State Lifeguard service. A commemorative badge is approved in honor of the occasion.

Though technology has changed, and lifeguarding methods have evolved since the 1950’s, the primary mission of the lifeguard has remained the same:  Saving lives!