San Diego Lifeguard History


SD Lifeguard History Book Release and Memorial Tribute
Wed. 5/23/18 - OB Lifeguard Station - 5:00 Sharp

Reception at Wonderland Ocean Pub to follow:
Media Release

Lifeguard Bronze Memorial dedicated May 23, 2013, Ocean Beach
Media Release - Program - Acknowledgements

Oceanfront Sunset BBQ Dinner Fundraiser Friday 9/21/12
Special Guest Noah Taffola - Click for information


A Comprehensive History of the San Diego City Lifeguard Service

The San Diego City Lifeguard Service is the oldest lifeguard service in the County but the service has yet to have a comprehensive history written of its origin and history through the years.

In 2009 the project was begun to conduct extensive research and write the history of the San Diego City Lifeguard Service. Researching the Lifeguard Service from its inception to modern times is being completed soon to publish a three volume book.

Mike Martino, a Lifeguard Supervisor of the California State Lifeguards was hired to oversee the research and write the three volumes. He is the author of "Lifeguards of San Diego County", completed in 2007. Martino has been working in conjunction with San Diego State University, graduate assistants and volunteers to research San Diego lifeguard history.

The project will culminate in a three volume written history of the Lifeguard Service. Volume I will examine the origins of the profession of lifeguarding and the beginning of lifeguard service in San Diego. The volume will chronicle the events and people who made the lifeguard service possible up to World War II. Volume II will begin during the WWII era and continue through the 1970’s. This volume will examine how WWII provided many challenges to coastal safety and how the City of San Diego responded to. There was a shortage of men to act as lifeguards during the summer, and as a result the lifeguard service utilized teens to provide the lifeguard protection to beach visitors. This in turn, led to the formation of the Junior Lifeguard Program. At the conclusion of the war, returning veterans with wartime service greatly influenced the organization and implemented changes in the lifeguard service. Volume III will continue the narrative using the same techniques as the previous two volumes. The project will include expansion of the lifeguard service into specialized cliff and swiftwater rescues. All three volumes will include personal stories of lifeguards in these events, the account of individual rescues and drowning that led political leaders and community members to recognize the importance of a well trained and efficient lifeguard service.

Permanent Lifeguard Historical Website

Research will be archived via a new San Diego City Lifeguard Association History Website, that will provide an organized and detailed archive of historical information relating to the lifeguard service including water related deaths, rescues, historical photographs, lifeguard alumni, and written records that will provide additional insight. Materials will be archived and arranged in chronological order so future researches and interested citizens will have easier access to the information.

The project has enthusiastic support from the San Diego City Lifeguard Association, former and current lifeguards and the history department at SDSU. A well written and documented lifeguard history will be appreciated by all those with an interest in and connection to the various coastal communities served by the San Diego City Lifeguard Service.


A Permanent Historical Marker honoring the San Diego Lifeguards

The vision for “The Lifeguard Bronze” originated from Bob Baxley (1929-2006), an Ocean Beach Lifeguard in the 50’s, respected trial lawyer and California State Superior Court Judge.

Renowned Artist and Ocean Beach native Richard Arnold grew up as a surfer and diver and graduated from Point Loma High in 1959. Arnold knew many of the lifeguards and surfers. He is Vietnam Veteran and settled in Telluride, Colorado where he has been commissioned to complete several public art bronze projects.

The Lifeguard Bronze will be a life like sculpture facing the ocean. It will be located just south of the Ocean Beach Lifeguard Station at the foot of Santa Monica Street. The Lifeguard Bronze will be incorporated into a larger Ocean Beach Lifeguard Safety, Sustainability and Enhancement project which has gained support from Ocean Beach community members, merchants and San Diego Councilmember Kevin Faulconer. The project will be submitted to the State of California for an historical designation marker memorializing the loss of 13 people in one day in the 1918 Ocean Beach drowning. This tragedy signaled the importance of having well trained and equipped professional lifeguards. After the 1918 mass drowning in Ocean Beach, George Freeth testified before the grand jury and suggested a number of lifesaving measures including patrol methods, staffing requirements, and rescue techniques.

Lifeguard History Project Budget

The San Diego Lifeguard History Project is managed by the San Diego Lifesaving Association, a non profit 501c3 organization. The Budget is $40,000.

  • Lifeguard Book 3 vol. (research/writing) $15,000
  • San Diego Lifeguard Bronze $25,000

Will you Help?

We need your financial contributions to continue this project and tell the story of the San Diego City Lifeguard Service. What contribution will you make?

Please donate to these worthy projects. The San Diego City Lifeguard Association has provided a start up investment of $1,000 dollars. The remaining funds will be raised through private donations. The San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation has provided $1200 in support for the project.

Please send your tax deductible donation of $1000, $500, $250, $100, $50, $25 to:

The San Diego Lifesaving Association, P.O. Box 99025, San Diego, CA 92169. All contributors will be acknowledged and your gift is completely tax deductible. Thank You.

Printable donation and registration form

Contact Information

  • Michael Martino, Project Director and Author, P.O. Box 1346, Imperial Beach, CA 91933 (619) 572-3991
  • Byron Wear, Project Chair (619) 840-1403/224-0560
  • Nick Lerma, Project Liaison, Lt., City of San Diego Lifeguard Service
    2581 Quivira Court, MS 32A, San Diego, CA 92109 (619) 221-8833






©Copyright -San Diego Lifeguard History Project - All Rights Reserved