Community Spotlight: Brad Ward

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A local kid helps keep life here totally beachy

Q: You’ve been a lifeguard with Sarasota County for 12 years, spending part of your time on Siesta Beach.

As a local guy, how did Siesta Key influence your interest in this profession?

A: I grew up on the island and always thought the beach was the highlight of the island. Growing up, I saw the lifeguards as the elites of the beach.

The beach was my second home and I was always amazed by the wildlife in the waters here, too. I knew I wanted to be part of that and make a difference doing something I’d love on the grounds where I grew up.

Q: What is the biggest misconception about life as a lifeguard?

A: I hope everyone understands the important work lifeguards do on a day-to-day basis. We are there as first responders and trained to deal with whatever is thrown our way.

Whether it’s pulling people out of rip currents, helping to find lost kids in the crowds of thousands, jet-ski calls with rough conditions, or any kind of medical call one could think of.

Q: What important advice would you give beachgoers that is often overlooked or ignored?

A: Please respect the beach and your limits.

The beach is a lovely place to have fun, but be cautious. Waves, rip currents, strong currents and extreme heat can quickly ruin a day if you don’t know your limits. We do the best of our ability to educate the public and inform them of the dangers that are present. Listen to the advice from lifeguards — they are there to help you enjoy a safe day on the beach.

Q: Have you ever saved a life out in the Gulf, or on the beach?

A: I’ve definitely made several rescues during the last 12 years lifeguarding on the Gulf. Even on the calmest of days, when it is least expected.

One of the more memorable rescue days was when I pulled 22 people out of the water in one day – the most rescues I have ever made in a single day. It was a red-flag day, meaning beach conditions included high winds and strong currents, and I made several trips in and out of the water for rescues. Sometimes it was rescuing more than one person at a time.

Another rescue involved the use of the personal rescue watercraft. There was a storm approaching as the call came over. It was me and a co-worker who responded. We launched the personal watercraft to assist two individuals who lost their paddleboards and didn’t know how to swim.

As we got to them, the storm came in full force. Lightning was hitting on all sides of us as we were able to get to them and safely return. They were so grateful.

Q: On a lighter note, Siesta Beach has the four iconic lifeguard stands — yellow, red, blue, green. Which is your favorite? And why?

A: Out of all the lifeguard stands, I would have to say the yellow and red are my favorite. They always pack the most action and lifeguards at these two stands are most often the ones who go on marine rescue calls.

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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