When Signe Rudrud learned to swim at age 4, she remembers watching the lifeguards at Lake Nokomis and thinking, "Wow, they get to be at the lake all day." Now she's entering her senior year at South High School, and lifeguarding at Lake Nokomis is her job. Even as a longtime swimmer, her responsibilities have given Rudrud a new perspective on the water, and a new appreciation for the type of endurance required on the job.
LIFEGUARD SCHOOL "To get certified, you do a 32-hour training. Half of the time is in the water, and the other half is in the classroom. You have to swim 200 to 300 yards, which wasn't a lot for me, and lift a block from the bottom of the pool. I took the course with a man who was going into the Marines. He was huge, to say the least, but it was a great way to practice saving someone whose size was a challenge. I was hoping my swimming would help me -- and in general, you have to be a stronger swimmer -- but you learn a lot: different ways of saving people, entering the water, relearning the water, CPR."
ON ALERT "This is my first year. I work at the two beaches at Nokomis. You do 20 to 30 minutes on a stand, where you're surveying the water and beach, and then you go off for 20 to 30 minutes, get water and sunscreen. You do that all day. It's team-oriented, to make sure you're alert. I didn't realize how busy the beaches can get; it's a challenge to make sure you're really alert when so much is going on. Being alert is an endurance thing, and physically, spending all day in the sun drains you. I am constantly drinking water to stay cool and hydrated."
OLYMPIC STRENGTH "Most of the people I work with aren't swimmers, but it really does help if you're physically in shape. You don't have to be Michael Phelps, but if you're doing a rescue, you have to be comfortable with your body and be able to rely on it. If you had to save someone a lot bigger than you, you need to know you're strong and capable of doing it. They moved the diving dock to the little beach at Lake Nokomis, so you're out on the kayak some of the time. The kayaking is a workout; you have to be a little bit in shape. I play sports year-round: I swim, cross-country ski and play softball."
THE ART OF RESCUE "How to rescue someone: It's almost like there's an art to it. You make sure you keep the spine aligned, you learn how you use your safety tube, and how you work in the water. I felt more empowered after the training. It's so cool that I know now how to help someone if I had to."
PATROLLING THE BEACH "You get extra training for the lakes because it's a different environment. I have friends who work at pools where they're mostly just watching people lap-swim, whereas at the beach there are kids running around. I try not to think that I might have to go save someone because it's nerve-racking. I don't get too nervous, but it's definitely a scary thing to think about. We get mixed signals about having guards at the beach or not. Some people say, 'We're so happy you're here; we wish you could be here all the time,' and a lot of people say, 'Do we really need guards?'"
RESCUE-READY "Our biggest rule is no horseplay: From the diving docks, you can only dive -- no flipping, pushing, fighting. The rule I enforce the most is the rule against inflatables. Parents will give their kids water wings and let them go, but they're not a life jacket [so they're not allowed on Minneapolis lakes]. So far, I've spent most of the time enforcing rules ... but I'm always rescue-ready."