The early days of the lifeguard group in Dominical
It all started in December of 1995, when Roy González met Paulo Tubito and they started talking about the fact that in Dominical so many people were drowning and something had to be done about it. At that point in time, when a water emergency occurred, surfers or fishermen, like the Amancio family, rushed to the aid of swimmers in trouble. I was sitting on the beach checking out the waves just like any other day when a friend of mine from California named Roy González walked up. We commented on the latest incident, in which someone drowned the previous afternoon. For us, the idea of people constantly drowning at Dominical Beach was nothing out of this world. In fact, saving one, two, three, or even groups of people was normal for the family of surfers that lived in Dominical. But for some reason, this conversation motivated us and served as an incentive for us to act. Roy and I immediately spearheaded the project, first starting with local business owners and asking for support. We approached Mike McGinnis, of San Clemente and contacted a lifeguard from New Jersey (Matt Haley), who would later come for the new year to take charge of training volunteers and giving us a hand. I say give us a hand because my job was to propose and convince surfers, my friends, and brothers to volunteer as lifeguards during the high tourist season in Dominical. It was this way that guys like Ronnie, Jose(Gato), Alan, Vinicio (Cherepo), Alvaro, Junior, los hermanos Erik y Kirk, and other loyal friends and surfers, decided to volunteer to save lives.
It has been 10 years since Mr. Roy Gonzales, who we all know, had the idea of starting the lifeguards of Dominical, but in the early days, there was not much support in the community. Roy, who is an artist (painter) and lifeguard, started training Mateo when so many people started drowning. In this way, they began to organize and created what is now the organization of lifeguards: (Dominical Lifeguards, S.A.), which was created in 1995 by Vanessa. Over the course of those early years, there were people who got involved trying to bring a lifeguard service to the area. The very first lifeguards were: Mateo, Vinicio, Junior, Paolo, Manfred, Ronny, Esteban (Pechuga). They were trained as professionals by the Association of lifeguards of Costa Rica and INA, (National Institute of Learning), and taking classes such as first aid and CPR. The first lifeguards had no salary, but worked as volunteers to help their community. The current group of men that now work as lifeguards includes: Mateo, Vinicio, Alavaro, and Nacho, who recently joined them. They are now paid, have insurance, and comprise a good team.
Here are some of the thoughts of the lifeguards, expressed in their own words, what it is for them to be or to have been a lifeguard:
Vinicio: It is an honor. It’s not just anyone who does this job. Six years of being a lifeguard means a lot, it requires a lot of dedication, respect, and love.
Alvaro: It feels good when you save a life. It’s a beautiful experience. It’s also a job in which you must be alert. It’s not a job for just anyone.
Gato: It’s a good feeling to help people, feel the adrenaline, have to focus on what you’re doing. When you save someone, it’s an intense situation. I stopped being a lifeguard because I had to represent Dominical in the surfing tournaments.
Paolo: I was a lifeguard from December 1995 until November 2001. It was a beautiful experience for me. I always try to help them from here (USA). I work for a company of ambulances, so I help with equipment donations. Although I’m not in Dominical, my heart still is, and I am always in communication with them.
Ronny: Anyone could be a lifeguard, but must have a lot of aquatic knowledge, be a man of the water, like an angel of the guard.
Junior: A very beautiful experience. I was left with the satisfaction of saving lives. The people appreciate the efforts one makes.
Nacho: I joined this team a year and a half ago. I love the experience of helping and what I’ve learned. I appreciate all the support I’ve been offered.
Alvaro: In these 4 years it’s been a beautiful experience. It feels good to make a rescue. There are a lot of people that don’t pay attention to the lifeguards. I ask them to pay attention when we’re working since the only thing that matters to us is them. We recommend that before you go to the beach you inform yourselves on the precautions you should take. There’s a lot of information on the beach and at our towers.
One of the experiences of Mono Gato I’d like to share with you, from a time before the lifeguards, happened when he participated in a rescue. He tells the story in his own words: Two people were drowning at the beach. At that time, the lifeguards didn’t exist. I went running until I got to where they were and found a girl. I calmed her, then dove, and was swept back. Then I returned to her and in that moment a wave came and I yelled, “dive!”, because the wave was going to fall on top of her. A few minutes passed and I couldn’t see her. I dove again and she wasn’t there, but then I saw a hand. She was super exhausted, and I pulled her. She was unconscious and purple. In the end, two people were saved. Because of that they recommend that if you don’t have adequate training, don’t try to be heroes. Her husband almost drowned trying to save her.
Thanks to all of them for their unconditional strength and much appreciation for those that contributes their grain of sand to make this possible. Special thanks to Paolo Tubito for all the information.