Boogie boarding, wave pools, and towering water slides—there are few better ways to beat a heatwave than to spend an exciting day at a water park. Every summer millions of visitors flock to Caribbean Bay to do just that, enjoying thrilling rides like Mega Storm and AquaLoop, or relaxing in one of the many spas or pool zones.
While everyone is having fun splashing away the heat, there is a team of people behind the scenes keeping everyone safe: the Caribbean Bay lifeguards. Sporting perfect tans, red life preservers, and a big smile, they are hard to miss as they keep a watchful eye over the guests enjoying their day. Jea-Kwang Ryu is one such lifeguard that has maintained a vigilant post at the park since he first started.
The Best and Brightest
With 17 years under his belt, colleagues regard Ryu as the best lifeguard at the park. That’s probably because the job is a dream come true for Ryu, having dreamt of becoming a lifeguard since he was in the third grade.
“I slipped in the water during a trip to the beach with my parents,” recalled Ryu. “My parents rescued me, and I immediately wanted to be the one to rescue other people.” That incident sparked Ryu to learn how to swim, ultimately landing his first part-time job at the park in 2001.
In 2004 Ryu got the chance to expand his knowledge when Caribbean Bay signed an advisory agreement with Ellis & Associates (E&A) Inc., an international aquatic safety and risk management consulting firm, to refine the lifeguard training program. Ryu seized the opportunity and added the E&A International Aquatic Safety agent instructor certification to his Water Safety Instructor certification from the Red Cross.
Soon after he was working long hours training recruits, writing lectures, and running practice drills. He views his role as an instructor as vital to the success of Caribbean Bay’s lifeguard program.
“We train hundreds of younger lifeguards who are responsible for thousands of customers every year,” said Ryu. “The instructor’s first impression and communication skills form the foundation for the attitude of the new recruits.”
Instilling a positive attitude in newcomers is important because many come with false impressions of what the job entails. That was a lesson Ryu learned not long after he joined the company when a little girl fell into the indoor wave pool on his watch.
“She was sitting in the water, about 1.2 meters deep, and kept looking at me,” recalled Ryu. “I’d never seen that kind of situation before, so I kept looking at her not knowing she had fallen in. When I realized what the problem was, I jumped in and rescued her and handed her back to her parents. That memory still lingers in my mind.”
While many new lifeguards think their ability to swim is the most important tool, Ryu says first aid knowledge is the top priority. Lifeguards need to know how to perform CPR on both children and adults, jump safely into the water, perform a rescue, and must learn the signs and stages of drowning.
Thanks to instructors like Ryu, all Caribbean Bay’s lifeguards are well-trained and prepared in case of emergency.
Becoming a Lifeguard
To ensure that new lifeguards are ready for the job, every recruit goes through an introductory session and three days of lifeguard training. Lessons include mindfulness, water safety, first aid, lifesaving, emergency equipment, and more. After training, recruits must take a test and only those who pass are selected to become Caribbean Bay lifeguards.
Once selected, the most important thing for a lifeguard to remember is that anyone can fall into the water and get hurt. It’s the mindset of a lifeguard that determines how safe the area is around him. Ryu says, above all, he looks for people with the right attitude.
“Lifeguarding is a job that puts heart before technique,” said Ryu. “Knowing life is precious is more important than skills, so if you are someone with such an attitude, you will always be welcome as a Caribbean Bay lifeguard.”
Those that make it into the ranks learn more skills through periodic education and daily practice. Here’s what the average day of a lifeguard looks like at Caribbean Bay.