SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Summer camp is in session. The first of the season is the Junior Lifeguard program in South Walton. 

From water rescues to basic medical needs, the beach safety division in South Walton is preparing kids for a busy beach season.  

“They are the first line of being socially and situationally aware out here so that they can tell their friends and family and inculcate a sense of safety, a culture of safety, that’s what we’re building is a culture of safety,” said South Walton Fire District Beach Safety Director David Vaughan.

The program started in 2008 and lasts three weeks for kids 9 years or older. New for 2023, 16 years old can be certified to work as a lifeguard in the area. 

“Technically by contract and by USA standards, we’re allowed to employ 16-year-olds. We haven’t taken that step. Our minimum age for lifeguarding is 17, but what we’re doing now is filling that gap of getting 16-year-olds prepared to jump into an actual position as a lifeguard, should they choose to do so,” said Vaughan. 

Vaughan said having this camp at the beginning of summer break creates safe water habits for the crowded 30A beaches. 

“We figure there’s nothing more constructive than getting them right out into the water and getting ready for the entirety of the summer. Let’s knock it out,” said Vaughan. “Get them armed with the knowledge and the skills that they need to have a great summer and a great rest of their lives around the water.” 

Second-year Junior Lifeguard Lilly Diehl said she has become more comfortable around the water since joining and loves being able to share her new knowledge with family and friends.  

“The rip currents cause if you swim out too far and then you fight or try to fight the current, that will just make it worse and I don’t want them to get in danger,” said Diehl. 

Junior Lifeguards have three separate sessions during the summer. They are all booked for 2023.

If parents or kids are interested in joining, information for the program is sent out every April.