Wrightsville Beach lifeguard tryouts test hopefuls

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More than 50 young men and women came to Wrightsville Beach on Sunday morning with the goal of becoming a lifeguard for the ocean rescue squad.

As Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue Capt. Jeremy Owens told the tryouts after the morning competition, not everyone would make it. But those with goals of making the team said they would be back next Saturday for another day of tryouts. Recruits don’t have to attend both, but several said they would, to help increase their chances to make the team of about 30 lifeguards.

Of the tryouts, about half were new hopefuls, with the other half being returning squad members looking to work another season.

The tryouts included a swim of nearly a half mile, followed by a mile run. It also had tryouts perform both “active” and “passive” rescues. Several said the most difficult element of the tryouts were the passive rescue, where lifeguards are sent into the surf to drag out an unresponsive victim.

The victims, played by other lifeguards and swimmers, prove to be a handful for the lifeguards, who must pull the lifeless bodies out of the water while being pushed by the crashing shorebreak waves.

“In the water, they’re buoyant, but on land, they’re dead weight,” said Austin Stewart, an intern with the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department. “My swim and run times were alright, but I feel I did really well for the rescues.”

Stewart said he quit his day job in March to focus on training for the lifeguard tryouts.

“I trained for more than a month. I’m coming back next week, it’s a good workout,” he said.

Kyra Demarte, of Wilmington, is making her first attempt at joining the Wrightsville Beach lifeguards.

“There’s a purpose in it,” she said of making the lifeguard squad. While Demarte said she had thought about it for years, it wasn’t until a friend who had served on the squad encouraged her to tryout.

Several interns from the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department were there for the tryouts. Tanner Freeman, a 5-foot, 5-inch intern and part-timer for the fire department, said during the difficult passive rescue test, he wound up with the “biggest guy.”

“The passive rescue was the hardest test. Part of it is controlling the victim, while also mainting control of yourself,” Freeman said.

WBFD intern Parker Galloway said the tryouts weren’t just a physical challenge.

“Overall, it’s just a hard workout,” Galloway said. “But it’s as much of a mental challenge as anything.”

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