San Diego

Hundreds of Junior Lifeguards Jump off Ocean Beach Pier

The swim back to shore is about 500 to 1,000 yards after the kids jump

Hundreds of Junior Lifeguards took a big jump off the Ocean Beach pier to kick off their graduation from the program Monday.

"I felt pretty confident at the beach. I'm a little more nervous when I'm up here," said Emory, a 10-year-old girl in the program, while glancing off the pier with an anxious smile. "But I'm excited."

The annual event marks the only time that anyone can legally jump off the pier.

Some kids hesitated at first, but with a little encouragement, they took the plunge.

It took place at the foot of Newport Avenue at the pier between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. After dropping down to the water, the kids have to swim about 500 to 1,000 yards back to shore.

"It sets them up with great life skills. They can use [it] if they do become lifeguards," said Dana Nelsen, a Junior Lifeguard coordinator. "They can use this in any profession they care to go into."

One 9-year-old boy, Oliver, told NBC 7 he was excited to jump off the pier, but he already did it last year.

For three weeks, the Junior Lifeguards have been learning to improve their swimming skills and how to do first aid, CPR, water rescue techniques and beach safety. The kids in the program are between age seven and 17. 

They prepared for the big jump by practicing jumping into Mission Bay. Each participant is required to wear their flippers for the lengthy swim.

"Our lifeguards are thrilled to share their experience and knowledge with these kids," said Lifeguard Chief Rick Wurts. "And whether the participants move on to become lifeguards or not, this is an experience they will never forget."

Lifeguards from the City of San Diego teach the program. They say the kids develop confidence, mental and physical fitness, as well as respect for one another and the coastal environment. The program is taught twice during the summer months.

"We build ocean knowledge and life skill knowledge that they can carry on with them for the rest of their lives," added Nelsen.

The event was also a fundraiser for the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation, aka the Drowning Prevention Foundation of San Diego. The public can also take part in the event by donating $75 to help the foundation prevent drownings.

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