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Junior Lifeguard Program numbers up this year

Posted: June 23, 2014 3:10 p.m.
Updated: June 23, 2014 3:10 p.m.
Claire Miller, 9, gets her turn to be tossed in the lake by instructors Tyler Miller, left, and Alex Anthony at Castaic Lake's Junior Lifeguard's Program during the first session. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.  Claire Miller, 9, gets her turn to be tossed in the lake by instructors Tyler Miller, left, and Alex Anthony at Castaic Lake's Junior Lifeguard's Program during the first session. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. 
Claire Miller, 9, gets her turn to be tossed in the lake by instructors Tyler Miller, left, and Alex Anthony at Castaic Lake's Junior Lifeguard's Program during the first session. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. 
Junior lifeguards in the 9 to 11-year-old age group push their instructor, Alex Anthony off the dock at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.  Junior lifeguards in the 9 to 11-year-old age group push their instructor, Alex Anthony off the dock at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. 
Junior lifeguards in the 9 to 11-year-old age group push their instructor, Alex Anthony off the dock at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. 
Swimmers from the 9 to 11-year-old age group race back to the dock after a short race at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.  Swimmers from the 9 to 11-year-old age group race back to the dock after a short race at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. 
Swimmers from the 9 to 11-year-old age group race back to the dock after a short race at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. 
Joshua English, 11, jumps off the dock at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. Joshua English, 11, jumps off the dock at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
Joshua English, 11, jumps off the dock at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
Kyra Muinos, 11, gets instruction on how to safely enter the water from the dock from instructor Alex Anthony at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. Kyra Muinos, 11, gets instruction on how to safely enter the water from the dock from instructor Alex Anthony at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
Kyra Muinos, 11, gets instruction on how to safely enter the water from the dock from instructor Alex Anthony at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
Two junior lifeguards paddle their kayak out onto Castaic Lagoon at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. Two junior lifeguards paddle their kayak out onto Castaic Lagoon at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
Two junior lifeguards paddle their kayak out onto Castaic Lagoon at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
Taylor Atlshule, 13, is rescued by her partner Jenna Miller, 12, during a rescue can drill in Castaic Lagoon at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18. Taylor Atlshule, 13, is rescued by her partner Jenna Miller, 12, during a rescue can drill in Castaic Lagoon at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
Taylor Atlshule, 13, is rescued by her partner Jenna Miller, 12, during a rescue can drill in Castaic Lagoon at the Castaic Lake Junior Lifeguard Program on June 18.
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Kids squealed with delight as junior lifeguard instructors Tyler Miller and Alex Anthony tossed them off the dock at the Castaic Lagoon.

“They’re the most fun instructors,” confided Laine Matkin, 11.

She’s one of about 300 aspiring lifeguards making a splash during Castaic Lake’s Junior Lifeguard Program this year. Program director Cary Flebbe says turnout is up this year, despite the decreased water levels that forced the closure of Castaic Lake for swimming.

Flebbe says the program is allowed to continue because each applicant is pre-screened with a swim test during a try-out session to ensure the junior lifeguards have the swimming skills to navigate the lake in its current conditions.

“If there’s any deficiencies as the water goes down, we can cone off (those areas),” Flebbe said. All camp activities have continued as normal.

With the swimming beaches closed, more lake lifeguards were available to be instructors, allowing for more kids to sign up. Flebbe says there about 50 more attendees in the first session than the program saw last year.

The two-session program is so popular that the second session was almost entirely booked up well before the June 14 deadline to enroll.

“Best summer camp ever!” shouts one boy before cannon-balling into the water.

That seemed to be the consensus among a group of 9- to 11-year-olds last week. The swimmers were dubbed the “Sea Urchins” by instructors Miller and Anthony.

“I enjoy it too much because they make me young,” Anthony said.

Flebbe says instructors like Miller and Anthony are a big part of the reason many kids come back year after year for the Junior Lifeguard Program. He says many parents tell stories of the program helping their child through a rough time.

“You tell the instructors that and it inspires them,” Flebbe said.

Many instructors were in the junior lifeguard program themselves in years past and come back to inspire the next generation of guards.

“It’s a fun way to teach you how to save someone’s life,” said Claire Miller, 9, a first-timer in the program.

Other kids come to fill their wide-open summer schedules.

“I don’t really like to have free time,” said Matkin, who swims for Paseo Aquatics.

The program doesn’t advertise anymore and gets most of its attendees through word of mouth. Some local swimmers have to leave cross-town swim club rivalries — like Paseo and Canyon Aquatic Club — at the door, but others come from as far as Pasadena, Glendale and Agoura Hills.

“We have some kids whose parents pay for the first session, and (the kids) loved it so much they pay for the second session themselves,” Flebbe said.

 

 

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