Pool lifeguards keep swimmers safe, help them when needed, run a variety of swimming classes, and do weekly staff training. In the better leisure centres this involves going into the water often, always in uniform so swimmers can recognise them. If you enjoy working in wet clothes some of the time, this job maybe for you.
Their uniforms are specially designed for use in the water, to keep them warm, avoid wind chill and sunburn. The top or bottoms can be taken off and used as a towing aid.
The local pool was looking for part-time lifeguards. Since I held a pool lifeguard qualification, I walked in and asked if I could help.
In the interview I showed them my recent qualification, answered a few questions and was told how this outdoor pool operates. This included customer care, cleaning, and supervision. They also warned my that it involved a lot of swimming. Great!
Then it was time for the swim test.
Since I didn't bring any swim clothes, they asked me to wear their ususal uniform: red shorts and yellow polo shirt, tracksuit pants and a nylon anorak.
After changing into the uniform, I jumped into the pool. The lifeguard clothes felt really good in the water. Later on I found out that these clothes were chosen deliberately to feel good so we don't hesitate to go into the water when needed.
The trainer asked me to swim a few lengths in the pool while he called a lifeguard from the staff room. Then he asked me to come out of the pool and introduced me to Sean who wore cargo pants and a blue hoodie over a white polo shirt.
"Alexei, you go to the shallow end," said the trainer, "and Sean, you jump into the deep end."
"Shall I keep my clothes on?" asked Sean.
"Yes, let's keep things real."
Sean jumped in and swam over to the deep end. I was impressed how fast he could move in the water with all his clothes on.
The trainer gave me a hoodie. "Put this on and use it as a rescue aid."
I slipped on the hoodie and waded into the shallow water until I was in chest deep, shouting at the casualty to reassure him. Swimming with the hoodie on was much harder.
As I reached Sean I took off the hoodie and presented it to him as a towing aid. I towed him back into shallow water, helped him stand up and assisted him out of the pool.
I passed the test, signed on and was issued with four sets of uniforms, shorts, shirts, tracksuits, and anoraks. When I asked why so many, the trainer told me that I often have to go into the pool to assist or teach swimmers. On crowded days they often have lifeguards in the pool in addition to the poolside guards.
Ingo, a German lifeguard, came out of the staff room, looking good in his full uniform tracksuit and anorak. He told the trainer that he was taking his lunch break. Instead of going to eat, he jumped into the pool with all his clothes on and started swimming his laps. What!?!
The trainer explained: "Whenever you're on poolside during a public session, you always wear your uniform, either when you go into the pool to help someone, or when swimming during a break."
The reason was that we should always be recognisable by the public. The trainer suggested I should swim a few laps too since I was already wet. I jumped in quickly as I love swimming in clothes, as does Ingo, like I found out moments later.
On a typical day I'm asked to go into the pool several times, depending how busy it is, taking turns with the other lifeguards. Rarely do I need to rescue someone. Usually I have to help someone, or teach a swimming skill.
After a while I get out of the pool, change into dry clothes, ready for next time. On some days as soon as I come out of the staff room in my dry kit, I have to go back into the pool again.
Some teenagers have worked out a routine to get us lifeguards into the pool more often by asking for help with a swim stroke or such. The main reason is probably that when they see us still dry, the want us to get our clothes wet. To avoid running out of dry uniforms, I decided to keep the wet clothes on as long as those teens were in the pool. That way I could get in an out as much as they need me.
Survival lessons are my favourite events and the swimmers enjoy them a lot. Twice a week I teach this very popular swimming class, which is essentially how to swim fully clothed and survive.
Swimmers gradually move up from swimwear, via jeans and tee-shirt, to jogging suits and hoodies. Each step I have to demonstrate myself wearing the right clothes in the water, then they try it until they can do it with confidence. Finally they learn how swim with waterproof adventure gear and ponchos, and how buoyancy aids and life jackets work. Then they are ready for open water.
We also do ongoing aquatic strength and survival training for fitness.
For these lessons the leisure centre sell a collection of training clothes, like tracksuits, hoodies and waterproofs.