Many people underestimate the determination and hard work needed to become a lifeguard. Strong rip current, major ocean swells, and packed beaches make for extreme conditions that act against you while trying to keep beach goers safe. Among other things, polarized sunglasses make a world of a difference in beach safety by helping prevent dreaded fatigue while in the hot sun all day. We got the chance to interview one of LA County’s finest, Mike Murphy, on how he became a dedicated guard, and how important his sunglasses are to keep him going strong.
Just another day on the job for Mike Murphy
Mike, how did you get started as a lifeguard?
When I was a senior in high school, my friend Kevin suggested that I take the lifeguard test for LA county. I clearly remember the conversation in his green van on a rainy day in the Torrance Beach parking lot. I told him that I sucked at swimming and would never be good enough to pass the test to become an LA County lifeguard. He said, “So what? I’ve taken the test 3 years in a row. You play water polo, give it a shot.” The next day, in mid-January, I started doing ocean swims in board shorts. Thankfully, the swim coach at my high school let me swim with the team 3 days a week and I kept up bi-weekly ocean swims. If I had not done it then I don’t know if I ever would have. That conversation with my friend Kevin forever changed my life for the better – He and I both passed the swim test that year. Lifeguarding in LA has since had a profound impact in every aspect of my life.
Why is sun protection (for eyes) really important to you?
Sunglasses, more than any other article of apparel or clothing, become an extension of your sensory perception. Once upon a time I was traveling in Australia with my brother Chris when our car broke down and multiple bags were stolen. I went a couple weeks with out shirts and shoes, living in board shorts, only wearing a t-shirt on occasion after dark. Both of us could do with out the clothes, but could not manage with out good polarized sunglasses. I’ve always valued good sunglasses for the glare reduction, allowing better vision lifeguarding, checking the surf, etc., but especially to minimize strain on my eyes. I pray my vision remains as strong as it is now for as long as possible, and I try to do anything I can to protect my eyes.
What are some examples of the extreme weather conditions you face on the job?
Typically, the beaches are busiest when the sun is out and conditions are nice. I love training (paddling, etc.) when the wind is howling and the swell is pretty hectic. It’s fun, but rarely are those days busy for me on the beach. Typically the beach is a ghost town when the wind and swell are pumping. The extreme work days are when we have good weather and good sized surf. Every summer in LA we seem to get one or two massive south swells between late July and early September. Those are the days you don’t go anywhere without fins in hand and the work environment goes from fun to relatively intense. It is awesome being a part of a team of lifeguards backing each other up every time someone hits the water on a rescue. LA County’s team oriented approach to lifeguarding is evident to anyone on those kinds of days.
What sunglasses do you currently wear?
I prefer wearing my Hobie Polarized Malibu’s at work because they are so light-weight, and easy to run with. When driving, or on off days, I’m typically in the Hobie Polarized Elijo with mirror lens or Seascape, both of which are glass lenses. If I’m paddling in the evening when the glare is pretty strong I’ll use my Hobie Polarized Rockpile shades because they drain water droplets fairly well.
What features do you like best about your current shades?
I like polarized shades that fit and sit with minimal weight. I’m also into shades that have broad frames, which help protect the corners of your eyes.
How do sunglasses help you on the job?
Quality sunglasses allow lifeguards to see the water moving immensely better. They help make subtle rip currents more visible, and they help to better track swimmers in glare spots, they put less strain on your eyes allowing lifeguards to be more attentive for longer periods. Good polarized lenses allows you to better see the texture of the surface water. Watching the water moving is what it’s all about when you’re lifeguarding, and every ocean lifeguard understands the value of well made polarized sunglasses.
Lifeguards today are fortunate to have quality sunglasses, along with other improved tools to help do the job better, but there is still no replacement for time spent in the water…lots of time spent in the water. Even with the best radios, fins, jet skis and polarized lenses available, if you’re not spending time in the water you don’t really know what you’re looking at. The best lifeguards in the world spend heaps of their own time surfing, paddling, diving, and body surfing to better understand how the ocean works. The guys I work with at the lifeguard training center in LA often say that to take it to the next level, we need to get wet daily, witness the fitness, and make it happen.
Without lifeguards like Mike Murphy our shores wouldn’t be enjoyable for vacationers. It takes an exhausting amount of training & dedication to handle this occupation, and for that we can’t thank them enough. We might try to keep your eyes safe & stylin’ here at EyeAspire.com, but we certainly wouldn’t be much help in pulling you out of an intense rip current. In regards to keeping your eyeballs happy & safe, don’t underestimate what a good pair of sunglasses can do for you!
To check out all the shades Mike wears, head to hobie.com