Who are Limassol's lifeguards, really?

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Limassol is neither Miami, nor Hawaii, so its lifeguards are neither cinema, nor TV stars. The people who were actually born and raised near this sea, are the ones watching the 16 organized beaches of the Limassol district.

Yes, they may appear to have a legendary profile, after the hit success of the famous 90s TV show, Baywatch, a legendary image may have been built around lifeguards, but the 46 men and women watching the local beaches, truly are just next door kids, that you will come across at the streets, the coffee shops, the neighborhood. Not being heroes of the screen, does not mean, though, that they haven’t been heroic in the sea. Dedicated and strong, the lifeguards are not around to show off, but because them not being there, caused for someone to lose their lives.

Talking about their roles and responsibilities, Andreas Isichiou reveals who are Limassol’s lifeguards, after all, how much do they work out, what they eat, whether they flirt on the beach and if they have anything in common with the legendary personas of Baywatch.

The strength of someone when drowning can be multiplied, since the panic causes an adrenaline boost… they may easily drag you with them.

What practice and knowledge is necessary for someone to be a lifeguard?
A lifeguard needs to have a diploma by the Cyprus Lifeguards Association, a diploma for proper use of a portable defibrillator device and a license for speedboat driving.

Does the character have anything to do with their ability to fill that role?
Of course it does! Integrity is important for a lifeguard. We interact with people on a daily basis and several issues may come up, so we need to be friendly and polite when talking to them. At the same time, a lifeguard needs to be strong and confident. Circumstances may turn out to be quite extreme in what we do, and one needs to have the inner strength and the composure that will help handle anything.

How many new lifeguards get a diploma every year?
Limassol Lifeguard Club trains around 140 people each year and the success rate is up to 95%.

That is quite a number, but women are rather few, right?
Yes, women who want to be lifeguards are fewer. At the moments, out of 46 lifeguards, there are only 2 women. They are just as skilled, of course. In fact, some are among the trainers. I do not think it is a matter of muscular strength, rather a matter of composure. When saving someone that is already fainted or even dead, some girls may not be able to face that. That does not mean that men may not have the same reaction, but it is not as common.

There is flirting on the beach, quite often, but its is always within the sense of propriety.

Is it easy to be a lifeguard?
not easy at all. Apart from rescues from drowning, a lifeguard is watching anything on the beach. We cooperate with local authorities and the police. We even operate as an information point for tourists and locals, sometimes.

What does the typical day of a lifeguard include?
One needs to wake up early in the morning to be on the beach side 1 hour before their shift, to do the morning exercise routine in the water, to prepare the tower, to do some maintenance for the tools and the boat. After the shift, some personal time with family or friends is needed, but, if they have another shift on the next day, they sure need an 8-hour sleep.

Do you work out every day? Do you have a special diet?
It is mandatory for a lifeguard to be in perfect condition. There is no letting yourself go. You need to eat lean, because you may be have to be in a rescue at any time given. Diet can be an issue for the performance of a lifeguard.

Exercise is also mandatory in this job. Warming up before a shift includes swimming, either in a long distance or speeding, training with free diving, so that we have lungs strong enough for a dive at 3 meters under the water without oxygen, and, of course, some muscle training with a horizontal bar, some abs, pulls and push ups in several sets.

Does this mean that you do not get to eat during an 8 — 10 hour shift?
Of course we do and we drink a lot of water, too. Coffee is a big part of our daily routine, also. A lot of coffee, actually, and even too much sometimes. Fruits are a must in the refrigerator of each tower, as well as some light meals.

Coffee and cigarettes usually go together. Does this apply for lifeguards, too?
Smoking is not good for what we do, but some of  the guys are smokers. Of course, they make sure to cut it down to few, as well as to avoid smoking during their shift.

What is the age of the youngest and the oldest lifeguard in Limassol?
Among the ones on duty today, the youngest is 18 χρονών and the oldest is 52.

Which was the hardest rescues you were asked to to handle, as long as you can remember?
We have had some incidents of a couple of people almost drowning together. When someone lacks the proper knowledge for rescuing a drowning person, both are in danger. Fortunately, none of this incidents resulted to a death. The strength of someone drowning is multiplied, since the panic causes an adrenaline boost and this means that they can easily drag you along under the water. 

What is the hardest part of a lifeguard's routine? 
On weekends, when the beach is packed with people and the heat and humidity are insufferable, you still need to be at your best and concentrated to the job. Even if one feels like fainting, they still need to have their eyes wide open.

Which is the most pleasant part of a lifeguard's routine?
When you receive the love and appreciation of the people for what you do. Our field has a lot of problems, but the love of people and the feeling of saving a human life, are the best reward.

Which beach in Limassol is harder to guard and why?
All beaches are dangerous in some degree, but a beach like the one in Curium for example, can be fairly hard to watch, because of the strong streams and large waves in it. That is why lifeguards prefer the beaches they grew up in, since they know them well.

Baywatch has built a legendary and "sexy" image for lifeguards. How do people react around you on the beach;
Indeed, there is such a side in this job, when the lifeguard is considered to be a hero. There is flirting on the beach, quite often, but it is always within a sense of propriety.

Several years back, this phenomenon was happening quite more often and some lifeguards did receive a reprehension. There even were a couple of false reports on the behavior of some lifeguards, so we had to pay more attention of our public profile. After all, the team has been upgraded, since the new kids working with us are usually university graduates with higher education and work ethics and they are very serious about the job. We are not on the beach to fool around.  

Lots of coffee, too much at some points, even. Fruits are a must in the refrigerator of the tower...

Have there been any awkward moments that you can recall?
Yes, I can recall some, but there sure are many more happening everyday. Last year, some desperate man tried over and over again to drown himself by going underwater. We would carry him back at the shore and he would run back in. We had to call the police , but the lifeguards had to keep trying to prevent him from drowning, until the force arrived.

In other incidents, we happened to rescue some aliens but as soon as we brought them to the shore they run away, because they had no licence to be in the country, even though a man after a rescue should be hospitalized and examined by a doctor.

What do lifeguards need to be able to watch the beach effectively?
One thing is that this has to be an established profession that will be on duty on a permanent basis. Of course, an upgrade with modern tools and boats is a must, since many of them are not suitable, or even dangerous for rescuing lives. 

Lifeguards are both familiar and extraordinary. They can always seem somewhat distant, sitting on the tower, always staring at the sea and the horizon. Still, at the same time, they are genuine Limassolians to their core, active members of the local community and ultimate sea and fun lovers. They may be no Baywatch, but they sure are their own kind of everyday heroes and role models.

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