How lifeguards train to keep us safe on local beaches

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The ocean can be a dangerous place for anyone stepping off the sand and into waves.

Tides, drop offs and rip currents overpower even the most experienced swimmers, but as News 3's Rachael Cardin learned firsthand, there is an extra set of eyes watching you and your children to prevent tragedy at the beach.

Every year, people of all ages drown at the beach. Even if you are Michael Phelps, you can still get caught in a rip current.

This makes the job of the lifeguard team crucial as they watch from their stand for anyone in trouble.

There are 80 lifeguards in Sandbridge alone, patrolling and scanning five miles of beach and ocean.

"You just gotta be out there. You gotta be proactive, you gotta be constantly on patrol and on the stand you have to be standing and not sitting, and that's what set us apart from everyone," one lifeguard said.

Since Virginia Beach AMS started staffing these beaches with lifeguards back in 2010, there has not been a single drowning here during the regular season, as each guard performs dozens of rescues a year.

The job its self is not for the weak; it's something they work hard to achieve.

"Joining a team like this isn't easy, and I had to do a lot of mental and physical preparation to get here," one team member said.

To stay fit they run, they swim and each guard tests their strength in every way they can to prepare for a war with the waves.

"It's me, that rip and however many victims are out, so if I'm not in shape and keeping it up, I'll be a victim just like them," a life-saving lifeguard said.

Because their jobs require them to be fast and fit, lifeguards work out every single day because they say someone else's life may depend on it.

Each morning, they train the team rescues each other from the water as if that person was pulled into a rip current.

"People think drowning is flailing in the water, but it's a ladder climb where people are bobbing up and down."

Each guard has their own flotation device, and a jet ski stays ready along the beach in case someone needs assistance immediately.

Lifeguard towers keep a watchful eye on children playing along the water's edge. The beach is fun and it's supposed to be, but listen to the experts when they blow their whistle.

The guards say this job has made them all one big family - a family of heroes who watch over you and jump into action when duty calls.