Gulf Islands Waterpark is training young lifeguards

Children practice saving lives at Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport.
Children practice saving lives at Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport.

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Waterparks are usually a place for fun and games. But at Gulf Islands Waterpark, the tone was a little different Friday. Children ranging from ages 7 to 12 took part in a week long lifeguard boot camp.

The final day of lifeguard training began with jumping jacks, followed by a jump into the water.

Saving a life is serious business and that's something the kids in this camp are finding out first hand.

"I learned how to jump in and do a compact dive, and then we learned how to do spinal management and a lot of other things," William Murphy said.

One important aspect of this training is CPR. The students, like Sarah Boudreaux, know they can now make life and death decisions.

"If one of them starts to have a cramp or if something goes wrong, I can help them out. So we've learned a lot of stuff about lifeguards," Boudreaux explained.

Even the very youngest students are up to the challenge. Payton Gabrielson is seven years old, but understands how much responsibility lifeguards hold.

"We train to be a lifeguard to save a lot of people," said Gabrielson.

The children participating in the lifeguard training program at Gulf Islands Waterpark say the program is a lot of fun. However, the instructors know there's a much more serious tone to it, especially in light of all the recent drownings on the coast. Rachel Howard is the park's Aquatics Supervisor.

"There are children that go in the river without supervision and they need to know [how] to help their friends, and themselves, if something were to happen in the water," Howard said.  "They need to know everything possible to help themselves."

Austin Frisbie, another student, summed up the training best.

"It's, like, very cool to do. It's really fun to swim, but you have to take a lot of precautions," Frisbie said.

Those precautions will ensure these children, and their friends, are safe in the water.

This is the first year the program has been held at the waterpark and 37 children participated. Waterpark officials say they expect as many as 100 participants next year.

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