BAY-WATCHING CHAMPS; L.A.'S REAL BEACH BABES, BRAWN STAR AT GUARDING LIVES.
They don't often break up spy rings or capture smugglers, but the actual work of Los Angeles County lifeguards is far more strenuous than the antics on ``Baywatch.''
But the actual L.A. lifeguards really do seem to do their work better than their counterparts anywhere else in the country. Competing at Cape May, N.J. over the weekend, the L.A. team won its 13th straight national championship in the U.S. Lifesaving Association's competition. It is the 26th top title for Los Angeles County teams in 30 years.
``It's a pretty big honor,'' said Mike McIndoe, a 19-year-old from Malibu who works at Zuma Beach. ``But it was something we expected. We worked hard for it.
``It is tough,'' said McIndoe, a second-year lifeguard, who said team members sneak in training around their 50-hour work weeks. ``We're all pretty drained. But it shows we're dedicated to the job.''
The Southlanders defeated teams from around the United States, Canada and Japan in tests of the skills that lifeguards need in their everyday jobs. Despite what television might have you believe, that doesn't include exposing themselves for ``Playboy'' or exposing international jewel thieves.
Instead it means tests like the American Ironwoman competition - a successive 150-meter run, 300-meter swim, 400-meter rescue board paddle and 100-meter run - which Heidi Hannenian-Kissel of Hermosa Beach won for the second year in a row.
``The fitness level you have to keep up is just immense,'' said 28-year-old Hannenian-Kissel, a lifeguard for five years and a former swimmer for Northwestern University and the University of California at Santa Barbara.
``What we have to do on any given day might take that fitness level, but it's more mentally taxing. We're here for eight hours, and there's really not one second where you can't be paying attention,'' she said.
``You have days where you don't make any rescues,'' added team member Jamie Orr, a 30-year-old from Hermosa Beach. ``But you have to be ready to bust on a dime, make a 200- or 300-yard run and swim and grab a guy who's not helping you at all and drag him to safety.
``It's a serious job. People think we're out here working on our tan,'' Orr said. ``We watch 60 (million) to 80 million people here in the summertime.''
But they said the job gets easier with experience, and veteran lifeguards gain almost a sixth sense for spotting trouble.
Experience also helps in the competition, said lifeguard Capt. Steve Moseley. The L.A. County team keeps winning partly because of points won older or retired lifeguards who dominate the senior-lifeguard, over-50 and over-60 categories. The team's depth also helps.
``It was kind of neat,'' said section Chief Gary Crum, ``to see all the generations together for a common goal. We had everybody from the 18-year-olds to the 78-year-old (Paul Matthies).''
The victory was especially sweet, coming over Monmouth County, N.J., the team that almost snatched the title away from Los Angeles last year - losing by only 52 points out of 491. The Monmouth County team was playing on its home turf and had recruited a team of 160, including some whom Moseley called ringers: Australian lifeguards working in New Jersey just for the summer.
``They were lined up ready to defeat us,'' Crum said, but L.A. County prevailed, 674 points to 555.
Los Angeles fielded a team of 54 who volunteered from the ranks of the agency's 500 part-timers and 115 full-time lifeguards.
Photo: The Los Angeles County lifeguards team is back from New Jersey with
its 13th straight North America-Japan championship. Helping win it were, from left, Gary Crum, Tom Seth, Jamie Orr and Will Douglass.
Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 10, 1999|
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