USLA 40th Anniversary

The United States Lifesaving Association celebrated its 40th anniversary in Galveston, Texas.

The United States Lifesaving Association celebrated its 40th anniversary in Galveston, Texas with an appearance by US Surgeon General Richard Carmona, MD (former lifeguard) and USLA’s founding president, Bob Burnside. Carmona, himself a former beach lifeguard in Huntington Beach, California and on New York’s Long Island, was presented an honorary membership by USLA President B. Chris Brewster. Brewster asked Carmona to try to have a USLA “Lifeguards for Life bumper sticker affixed to Air Force One.

Carmona remarked on the positive influences lifeguarding had contributed to his life, particularly self-discipline and responsibility. He mentioned how much he enjoyed going to work each day as a lifeguard, reminiscing over many stories of his service. He suggested that lifeguards can serve as role models, both with respect to physical fitness and the values that stem from a commitment to serve as first responders to those in distress. A group of Galveston’s junior lifeguards were in attendance, providing an example of how the positive influence of lifeguarding can extend across generations.

Burnside, a former Lifeguard Chief at Los Angeles County and inventor of the plastic Burnside buoy that has become an iconic tool of lifeguards, talked about the roots of the formation of USLA, which was begun as the Surf Life Saving Association in 1964. It was then composed of members of only a few California surf lifeguard agencies. Eventually though, after years of work, it would come to encompass the entire US and include aquatic rescuers at beaches both with and without surf.

The 40th anniversary meeting included new initiatives on the part of USLA, including development of national guidelines for the training and use of personal watercraft in aquatic rescue and development of draft guidelines for open water swim event safety. A training course in use of personal watercraft in rescue was provided by members of the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, pioneers in use of this craft. At the meeting a new association was born. The Mexican Lifesaving Association was formed by representatives of several areas in Mexico, with the support of USLA and its membership.