Sergeant Sydney Hammerness just finished her ninth summer with the Encinitas lifeguards, after starting with the city in 2014. Sydney's known around Moonlight HQ for her ability to routinely out swim almost anybody: prior to becoming an ocean lifeguard, she was a pool guard and a swim coach. Sydney put her 2018 ELA grant towards her EMT recertification, which she first earned in 2012.
What made you want to be a lifeguard?
Well this is a little embarrassing, but in 2012 or so, the Weather Channel made this documentary show about lifeguards in San Diego called "Lifeguard!". I was going to school and working as a pool lifeguard at the time, and seeing that show was the first time I realized that beach lifeguarding was actually a career I could pursue. That's really what sparked me to start researching what it would take to become a beach lifeguard—and as soon as I figured it out, I quit college, went to EMT training, and then enrolled in Miramar's Open Water Lifeguarding Academy in 2014.
What do you love most about the job?
I say this as sort of a joke, but also sort of not as a joke: not having to wear pants! That, and the fact that it's different every day—there's no getting bored. I also love being in a position where I can truly help people, every day.
What's the most challenging part of lifeguarding?
I think a lot of lifeguards or first responders will tell you this, but often times people are in trouble before they even realize it, so they can be reluctant to take help when it's offered and when they actually need it. We see this a lot in open water situations, where individuals will swim out too far or be in a bad spot without realizing their inexperience or the risks of the situation they're in.
How has your EMT training come in handy?
There have been loads of instances, more than I can remember, but a few months back, I was on duty when an unconscious victim was pulled out of the water at Moonlight. I was on my break at the time, but as soon as I saw what was happening I ran to help and stared to administer CPR until the ambulance arrived. That one's stuck with me.
Best beach snack?
Lately I've been loving these little cheese and mixed nut snack packs from Costco, or cucumbers with tajin!
Favorite beach in Encinitas?
Stonesteps! It usually feels calm and quiet, and the local neighborhood crew is the best—they'll occasionally drop off treats like passion fruit from their backyards, and the Stonesteps ladies never fail to entertain.
Something you wish more people knew about lifeguarding?
That there's always so much going on behind the scenes ... from office administration, to equipment operations, trainings, communicating with our team and with the public—there's a lot more to it than just sitting in a chair watching people swim.