by Krystal Paco
Guam - With thousands of island tourists and residents who visit beaches on a daily basis especially during the holidays, Department of Parks & Recreation lifeguards have their own Christmas wish list. With tourism as Guam's leading industry and millions of visitors flocking the island's beaches, you'd be surprised to learn there's only eight lifeguards on duty to man all of Tumon Bay: two at Ypao and two at Matapang with the remaining men to man the island's two public swimming pools.
But that's not enough, according to Joseph Nauta, a lifeguard for over eight years. "That's one of our wish list - to open our jurisdiction even more or have lifeguards stationed also in the east side of the island and at Talofofo Bay, where it's really critical too where tourists also go to, and they don't know anything about water safety," he explained. "In the Tumon area, we would like to have more towers, too, especially like in Tanguissan or somewhere closer where its faster for us to respond to any emergencies coming out of Ritidian Point or the Urunao area."
Over the weekend, Nauta put the Department of Parks & Recreations' only jet ski to use to save a handful of paddlers. Despite his warning to the 14 paddlers, they went out anyway. Nauta recalled, "We told them we would monitor them as far as our binoculars can see and there were probably at Two Lovers Point area, but we already knew for a fact that something is going to go down. But as long we strongly advised them that the ocean is going to get rougher."
And when a swell knocked over the first kayak - which held eight men and a teen - Nauta was ready to save, but it took him 15 minutes and multiple trips to do so, time that could have been cut to five minutes had there been another jet ski to respond.
And while they work understaffed with little equipment, Nauta warns locals and tourists - when in doubt, don't go out. Or, ask a lifeguard for help. "Water safety is a big thing some of us take it lightly but in actuality it's a big thing. Like I said, we're surrounded by water everybody should at least learn how to swim take swimming lessons.
"If you're not a strong swimmer, swim where you can stand, and swim with a buddy."