SOUTH WALTON Fla. (WMBB) — Lifeguards received immense public pushback this past weekend many saying they were verbally attacked by beachgoers.
But beach officials said it is important to keep vacationers safe so their vacations are not interrupted by a funeral.
Not only was the surf up on South Walton beaches Saturday, but South Walton Fire District lifeguards said they lost their voices speaking up against public defiance. SWFD Beach Safety Officer Brandon Brown said he was just doing his job.
“Prevention is so much more important than reaction. Because if I can prevent you from getting into trouble then I don’t even have to worry about you drowning,” said Brown. “So actually the voice getting hoarse, it ends up being a tool because you can say, I’ve lost my voice because I’ve talked to that many people today.”
Brown made over 25,000 public contacts Saturday, warning beachgoers of their safety.
“I can say for a lot of my lifeguards, they were getting a lot of aggressive verbal threats,” said Brown.
Lifeguards received constant push back.
“You know, fain respect and being polite and then they would wait for you to turn your back, and then they would get in the water,” he said.
No matter how many times Brown and his team reminded vacationers, they would continue to venture into the dangerous Gulf.
“They should realize that even though these are sometimes kids on ATV and swimsuits, these are highly trained individuals who are capable of making elite-level water rescues in soul-crushing surf,” he said.
All Walton County officials are working together to ensure compliance on the county’s white beaches.
“As you know, we raised the citation this year from the smaller fee up to $500 so hopefully that will help,” said Walton County Code Compliance Director Tony Cornman. “We are out there to help out our water safety team, and they are aware too that if they have someone that they have trouble with, they can put a complaint in the system.”
Beach Compliance and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office made around 19, $500 fines so far this year.