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16 Weirdest Things Lifeguards Have Seen on the Job

Lifeguards have to be keen observers—here are some of the most unusual things these lifesavers have seen on the job.

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Father and son playing in the oceanmayakova/Shutterstock

If Mom was there, this wouldn’t have happened…

“One time, a dad kept tossing his toddler in the air—I mean really high,”  Lauren Crain, a PR professional, tells Reader’s Digest about her teenage lifeguarding job. “I kept asking him to stop, but he didn’t listen. Finally, he tossed the kid so high, the kid was able to grab onto a flag-rope strung high above the pool.” The kid was dangling there, while the dad (and everyone else in the pool) laughed. Eventually, the kid let go, and the dad caught him.

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Sign showing 5 ft depth on edge of blue swimming pool with no divingSteve Heap/Shutterstock

Take a stand

“A man in his late 20s was struggling and flailing in the middle of a pool,” former lifeguard Robert Herbstat tells Reader’s Digest. “The thing was, he was in only five feet of water, so I yelled at him to stand up, which he did, sheepishly, in neck-deep water.” These are the water-safety tips adults don’t follow, but should.

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adults legs underwater in the swimming poolKateryna Mostova/Shutterstock

“But we don’t wanna be saved”

Another time when Herbst was lifeguarding at an ocean beach, he watched a woman jump on top of a man. It looked like a classic case of a drowning person trying to climb on top of another person to save herself. To save them both (because this scenario often results in both people drowning, Herbst rushed out to where the people were and tried to pry them apart only to discover they were fine—and engaged in deliberate, intimate activity.

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Blue-blue paint, purple blue and blue, colored smoke on blue background, pigment mixing effect under blue waterling jiaqian/Shutterstock

The unexpected power of a fib

“One summer I worked on the waterfront staff at a pre-school day camp,” Kaitlin Stewart recalls for Reader’s Digest. “I told the kids they shouldn’t pee-pee in the pool and that I’d put a special dye in the water which would turn the water blue if anyone did. That part was a fib, but next thing I knew, one of the kids started crying hysterically, saying she’d just gone pee-pee.” Terrified the water was going to turn blue, the girl told on herself.

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The dreaded Snickers

This trick dates back at least to 1980 when Caddyshack came out: Anne Keiu reported to the website The Richest the sight of an unwrapped Snickers candy bar floating in the pool causes general panic; if a lifeguard plants it, she gets a nice, long break while the maintenance crew cleans out the water.

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A live frog swims in the pool, " If you are considered unworthy it does not mean that you can not afford more"BORISENKOFF/Shutterstock

Hey, you don’t have a pool pass!

Nothing like a rat, mouse, frog, or bird in the pool to gross everyone out, Keiu points out. Unfortunately, while it’s fairly easy to deny a human being entry to a pool, it’s impossible to prevent these interlopers from plopping in—to their detriment (and usually death), seeing as the pool is chock full of chemicals.

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Acidic situation

Speaking of chemicals, they’re not really good for humans either, at least not when they leaked in large quantities into a swimming pool. But that’s precisely what happened in 2010 at the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas, where a chlorine leak at the pool sent 26 guests to the hospital and injured some of the pool staff as well. Ouch.

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Stylish fashion handmade snakeskin python handbag on a swimming pool background. Bali.Artem Beliaikin/Shutterstock

Kids can be really mean

It’s tough to be a lifeguard what with all the mean kids, according to 26-year-old former lifeguard Martha on the video news platform, Attn: “Kids threw pie at me while I sat in a bathing suit on the Fourth of July. They threw my purse/phone into the pool for kicks.” Even worse? The parents didn’t reimburse her. Don’t miss the water-safety tips lifeguards wish parents knew.

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Swimming Pool RulesPatrick T. Power/Shutterstock

Parents can be pretty mean, themselves

Yeah, the parents can definitely be part of the problem for lifeguards if Martha’s experiences are any indication. “Parents asked me to babysit their children outside of the pool numerous times,” she points out. And they “yelled at me for telling their kids to walk—and not run—by the pool.”

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Water slide in the waterpark.g215/Shutterstock

Punchy daddy

Here’s another “fun-with-parents” story from Reddit user, MrSnazzyGoose. “A friend of mine got punched in the face by a dad because [the lifeguard] wouldn’t let his daughter go down the slide (she was too short).” Don’t miss these drowning rescue stories. They’ll make you rethink everything you know about water safety.

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A close up shot of a life guards red rescue tube floating in a pool.Randy Hines/Shutterstock

Kids say the darndest things

“I see a girl who needs help swimming and I offer my services to her parents,” a user shared anonymously on “Not Always Right” (which recounts stories where the customer’s not right). “The girl does great… so great, in fact, that she says, ‘I want to be a lifeguard like you when I’m older.'” The lifeguard was feeling pretty good when the girl adds: “I think you’ll be dead by then.”

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High dive, low expectations

Alex Lanzi, who spent more than four years working as a lifeguard, recounted the following story on Quora: “I was lifeguarding at a summer camp for kids aged five through nine, and a kid about five years old went off the high dive…and didn’t resurface. I jumped in and pulled him out.” It wasn’t a dramatic save as the kid hadn’t inhaled any water—but what was remarkable was when the kid told Alex that he didn’t know how to swim. Learn the silent but deadly signs someone is about to drown.

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Diving board issues

The Mountaineer, a North Carolina news outlet, reported the story of a far more dramatic save by a lifeguard that also involved a diving board: Daniel Worley, a 16-year-old lifeguard in Canton had to rescue a woman who dove off a diving board and landed flat on her back. “She took longer than normal to come back up,” Worley said, and when she did, she said really quietly (probably the result of having the wind knocked out of her), “Help me.” It all turned out fine, but it was definitely an “adrenaline” moment, Worley related.

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Fin of a shark in the high seaEvdokimov Maxim/Shutterstock

Shark bites

Shark attacks are surprisingly uncommon, but when it happens on a lifeguard’s watch, it’s crazy. When it happens twice within a half-mile, it’s downright surreal. But that’s what happened this summer in Fire Island (an island off of Long Island, New York). Two kids were bitten in what authorities believed to have been shark attacks, within half a mile of one another and less than an hour apart. Following these beach safety rules could save your life.

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A man walks over the rocks as the wave rolls over it while he holds a surfboard in his arm.JFJacobsz/Shutterstock

The occasional “weird” save

A surfer in California had to be saved by a team of lifeguards after he found himself stranded on the rocks off Montara State Beach earlier this summer. “A hiker in the area spotted the surfer and saw that the man was unable to get to shore,” according to the Half Moon Bay Review. Even the Coast Guard had to lend a hand.

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Australian Shepherd dog planning fetch in water of local swimming poolTeri Virbickis/Shutterstock

Canine double duty

Some lifeguards aren’t even human—consider Hazel, an Australian shepherd: “Patiently waiting for her owner to reach the far side of the pool, Hazel also sticks out a paw in case of emergency. After confirming her owner is all right, the poolside pooch wastes no time making her way to the opposite edge to do it all again,” Sputnik News reports. Don’t miss the 36 water safety tips lifeguards want you to know.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.