Locals compete in Junior Lifeguard state finals

Posted on 18 August 2011 by LeslieM

Pompano Beach’s Gwen Bencie wins the state championship in the Girls C Division Paddleboard event in the inaugural Florida State Junior Lifeguard Championships in Ft. Lauderdale recently. Photo by Gary Curreri

By Gary Curreri

Pompano Beach’s Gwen Bencie enjoys learning about the ocean.

The 10-year-old also enjoys competing and putting the two together while participating in the inaugural Florida State Junior Lifeguard Championships in Lauderdale recently.

“It’s mostly hard,” said Bencie, who competed for the Ft. Lauderdale Junior Lifeguard program the past two years. She won the Girls C Division Paddleboard event at the state competition.

“It teaches you how to save lives and rescue people. What you would really do if you were a lifeguard. I want to be a lifeguard when I am older. I think the competition is really important because I want to win and we can get points for the team.”

Bencie said her favorite event was the paddleboard, although she competed in all of the events.

“It’s fun,” Bencie added. “Sometimes, I go surfing and I like working out.”

Ft. Lauderdale scored 1,052 points to take the state title, while Pompano Beach was second with 668. Deerfield Beach was fourth with 289 points.

Mike Brown, 37, who has headed up the Deerfield Beach Junior Lifeguard program for the past 14 years, had 14 of his 70 junior guards competing in the event. Brown said two of his current city lifeguards came from the junior program.

“The benefits are you are teaching them water safety and teaching them how to save someone’s life,” Brown said. “You teach them how to identify dangerous water conditions and also how to use surf crafts like a paddleboard and how to catch waves.”

Deerfield Junior Lifeguard James Rivera, 14, a Boca High 9th grader, has been competing for five years and said it is fun.

“Sometimes winning is important,” said Rivera, who also swims for the Deerfield Beach Dolphins Swim Team. “It is pretty serious, but it is also fun, too, at the same time. It is a good experience.”

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