Normally, seeing lifeguards running on the beach would be a cause for concern — or perhaps a David Hasselhoff sighting — but on Wednesday and Thursday, July 11-12, in Nags Head, the sight of running lifeguards should be a bit more good-natured.

The 2018 South Atlantic Lifeguard Championships kicks off the morning of July 11 at Jeanette’s Pier.

The event — which is significantly better than a sighting of “The Hoff” — is essentially the preliminary competition for the lifeguard Olympics. The annual event is always a crowd-pleaser.

About the competition

The South Atlantic Lifesaving Association is the South Atlantic region of the United States Lifesaving Association.

It is comprised of more than a dozen chapters reaching from Virginia Beach, through the Carolinas and Georgia, and into north Florida.

The association’s mission is to reduce the incidence of death and injury in the aquatic environment through public education, national lifeguard standards, training programs, and promotion of lifeguard readiness.

The USLA rules mandate each participant in the competition “must be a professional, life, or alumni member of a USLA chapter lifeguard service.”

Through the events, the public gets to see the near-Herculean tasks expected of those who patrol the beaches in an effort to keep swimmers and others safe.

Professional lifeguards from across the region will compete to join the elite team that will represent the area at the National Championships in Virginia Beach Aug. 8-11 — and it includes some of the Outer Banks’ own lifeguards.

Schedule of events

Wednesday kicks off with a landline rescue race. Teams of four will compete in a rescue simulation.

One team member will play a victim on a buoy; a second team member will swim out to the victim, while the remaining two team members remain on the sand and pull the rescuer and victim to shore.

The victim is not allowed to help the team swimmer. When they reach the beach, all four must run and cross the finish line together.

This will be followed by a second rescue simulation competition known as board rescue wherein a rescue board is paddled out to a victim then, as a team, the two paddles around a flagged buoy before racing back to the beach.

Wednesday will also include a beach relay and a run-swim-run race that includes a 200-meter run, a 400-meter swim, and another 200-meter run.

Thursday’s competition kicks off with a 2k beach run starting at 8 a.m. The racing will continue with finals for the surf race, landline rescue, run-swim-run, and board rescue races.

The International Ironman and Ironwoman will also have finals on Thursday.

These races consist of a water leg that goes through the surf to a buoy and back, followed by a beach run of about 150 meters before heading back out to the water, and then finishing with a beach run to the finish line.

The water portion can consist of swimming, rescue boards, and surfskis, the latter of which is an 18-foot long kayak designed for going in and out of the surf. The skis are notoriously unstable but are sleek enough to allow a fast rescue through rough surf.

Surfskis will make their first appearance of the day prior to lunch for the men’s and women’s final surfski races.

Thursday will wrap up with a beach flag race, an individual competition in which competitors begin by laying face down in the sand with their feet at the starting line. When the signal is given, competitors jump up, and race to a flag 20 meters away.

For the lifeguards, the evening will end with an awards banquet at Jeanette’s Pier.


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