The new Walton County lifeguard program is scheduled to begin this weekend. While the new lifeguards aren't patrolling the beaches yet, they are on the sand and in the water as their training is underway.
The group of the first lifeguard candidates met at Ed Wallin Park for their training by the United States Lifesaving Association.
They're finding the course certification difficult. Jennifer Cornely says it’s a big challenge.
"It's pretty challenging. I'm a pretty good swimmer, but you know you're running in the sand. It's hot outside, today; it's really nice outside, but we've gone out in days the waves were pretty big so just dealing with the surf and the environmental conditions is a big challenge."
Some of the training session involved the 16 men and women swimming 550 yards in 10 minutes or less.
Adam Boyer is one of the trainees and says, "This is pretty tough, it's sort of like lifeguard boot camp. It challenges me swimming and brings everybody together. It's a good team effort and nobody can do it by themselves.”
Gary Wise, the instructor, had high praises for his class.
"Everybody is cheering each other on; everybody is encouraging each other. They’re doing an incredible job."
A number of tourists gathered on the beach to watch the training. Sharon Williams is looking forward to the day when these people will be officially "on-duty."
"I think it's a very needed thing and I think it will be wonderful for the beaches. I think it will get a lot more people to come to the beaches."
Susan Haake, a tourist, says it will help families with small children.
"There have never been lifeguards on the beaches and with us bringing small children down this summer and next it will be a real improvement. It will be really nice."
Walton will have 24 full-time lifeguards at six public beach areas. It’s being funded with bed tax money.