SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - There's no "gloom" in June gloom if you're a junior lifeguard this year. The popular summer program is back for a 45th year, despite the COVID pandemic.
You could say the campers are making more use of the sand and the ocean, thanks to physical distancing.
Normally, there are four big groups of 120 kids; this year, more groups with fewer campers in each pod. And, what was previously a day-long camp is now broken into two sessions, one in the morning and a second in the afternoon.
Counselors said camper complaints about cold water and exercising seem to be missing this summer.
"Kids are more engaged and they're very happy! So, instead of complaining about swimming and running they're like 'Yeah! Let's do it!'" said Paige Pighetti, Program Director. "They're super excited and they're also happy and they're always telling us, 'Thank you!' and 'It's been so great!' And the smiles are everywhere so it's been awesome to see."
"Just been refreshing to see everybody come out here with a good attitude and willing to step in and do things that we've never done before," said Tony Sholl, Aquatics Supervisor for the City of Santa Barbara.
Sholl said changes prompted by the pandemic and the need for physical distancing doubled his staff's workload in some respects but they were more than happy to make the necessary adjustments.
Sholl also said he noticed another group that seemed particular happy about the Junior Lifeguard program starting back up.
"Parents. They've, I think, been more excited than than the kids," Sholl said with a laugh. "They got their kid out of the house and have some free time to do adult things."
Several groups were on the sand, warming up doing jumping jacks before heading into the ocean. Others were getting their pictures taken. Most, if not all, were wearing red face coverings with the Junior Lifeguard logo.
A trio of girls wanted to share their excitement.
"It's really fun to be outside in the open and it's nice to be with your friends," said Lyla.
"The camp is open even though the coronavirus is here and we're really lucky," said Emilie.
"In the camp you get to swim, run, do fun things because normally in the coronavirus you get to just watch tv at home," said Aude.
The Santa Barbara Junior Lifeguards program runs Monday through Friday at East Beach, this year for one month instead of two.
For more information, click the following link: http://sbparksandrec.org/santa-barbara-junior-lifeguards/