CLEARWATER — The city will host a gathering of Sunshine State lifeguards this month, as the Southeast Regional Surf Lifesaving Championships takes place near Pier 60.
Roughly 20 beach patrol agencies from around Florida will converge July 18 on Clearwater Beach to participate in individual and team events such as a surf swim, a rescue board race and sand relays.
The competition, sponsored by the United States Lifesaving Association, serves a variety of purposes.
“It’s meant to keep our skills up and help keep us fit and ready all year-round,” said Clearwater Beach Patrol supervisor J.P. Atherholt.
“It also gives us the opportunity to get ideas and suggestions from other agencies, to see how they do things differently from us. So it’s a learning experience, too.”
Plus, Atherholt said, the competition is fun for spectators to watch.
“We usually draw crowds around that little section of the beach where we hold it,” he said.
Atherholt noted that this will be the second time Clearwater has hosted the event in recent memory.
“People really seem to enjoy the beach flag competition,” he said. “It’s a fan favorite. It’s not something you see on TV every day.”
Being the host city has its advantages, Atherholt said, namely that it allows as many local beach patrol members as possible to participate.
“We’re excited to have it here because that means more of our people can compete,” he said. “This year, we’ll probably have about 15 participants since we are hosting it.”
Despite the heavy participation by the Clearwater Beach Patrol, Atherholt assures beach-goers that there will be ample protection along the shore during the event.
“We don’t close any of the (lifeguard) towers,” he said. “There will still be a regular crew covering the beach that day.”
For more information on the Southeast Regional Surf Lifesaving Championships, including a schedule of events, visit the United States Lifesaving Association’s website at www.usla.org.