That's how fast each lifeguard must be on a moment's notice
story & photos by Trebor Britt
Who would guess that someone who earns their living by making lightening quick decisions, would also be raising two, super-slow, African Land Tortoisesweighing 50-70 lbs each. Such is the case with Siesta Key lifeguard, Rick Hinkson (37) of Sarasota.
Rick's life guarding career has spanned 22-years, and the last 14 have been sent guarding the crystal waters off the Gulf shores of Florida. Rick is one of the lifeguard supervisors that rotates between Siesta Key, Casey Key and Venice Beaches. You'll find Rick on duty on Siesta Key's blue life guard tower most Sunday's and Mondays.
Our lifeguards do most of their physical and medical skills training in-house. Rick's EMT certification and communications degree from a college near Buffalo, New York make him well qualified to meet the needs of the beach going public.
When asked about public safety Rick said, "The first and foremost tip I would give the public is to stay hydrated. If you're on the beach and you're not hydrated, and not feeling up, it's going to cause you to make poor decisions. You'll forget about being safe in the water." He went on to say, "There are six beaches that are guarded in Sarasota County,but there are also six or seven that are not guarded. It's always safer to swim and enjoy the beach that is guarded. Lastly, repeated applications of protective sunscreen is also an important aspect of safety on the beach."
Rick is very proud of having led and organized Florida's lifeguard competition on Siesta Key for three of the last five years. When he began this endeavor in 2008, it was the first time the event had been hosted on the Key in fifteen years. Almost 200 lifeguards participate from beaches all over the state. "Fifteen years ago Siesta Beach was a tiny little secret and now people come all from all over the world to enjoy our beach," Rick said. "We continue to host National volleyball tournaments, and triathlons. The sheer volume of events hosted on Siestabeach each year keeps on climbing."
There are no shortages of things to do around the Hinkson household. He and his wife are raising their 3-month old daughter along with taking care of the rest of their family pets. Along with the tortoises they have 3 dogs and a bird. They both love the outdoors, so when they can, they exercise, bike, swim, run, paddle and garden. If there's time, Rick will pic on his bass guitar.
When asked if he could spend the day with any person dead or alive, after a short hesitation he replied, "Carl Sagan?". "I'd like to pick his brain about stuff he learned about the universe. I spend alot of time researching that kind of thing. His writings make me appreciate my place on this planet."
Rick summed up life guarding this way, "It entails being at peace inone moment and being lightning fast in another."
Junior Life Guard Program
by Trebor Britt
Siesta Key lifeguard, Rick Hinkson is running this year's Junior Lifeguard Program on two area beaches. The first class is June 10-14 at Nokomis Beach, the second is July 8-12 at Turtle Beach. In it's 6th year, the program teaches youths ages 8-17 all aspects of life guarding. They have about 40 youngsters registered right now, fifteen or more are returning from last year. The program is so popular that several of the kids have been in the program all six years. Young people interested can simply go to www.scgov.net and look for the program's link.
Rick said, "Our first graduate is going to be working with us this summer. He's an impressive swimmer. He'll be one of the fastest swimmers on the beach when he's on duty. I love working with kids, and can't wait for my daughter to get old enough to participate in the program." Siesta, Venice, and Lido Beach have also hosted the program.