A Lifeguard’s Saga – Ep. 24 – Recycling

But we’re still in March, right? Spring has just arrived and we’re having some sunny days here in Portugal, which already invite people to the beaches, even up here in the North. And while most Lifeguards are currently inactive, I took the opportunity to renew my license last Friday and I thought to myself, “well, explaining how you become a Lifeguard could be an interesting thing to share, since we don’t simply pop up from the ground and crawl to the beaches during the summer”.

So, heavy nerves aside, I applied with all the necessary documents and followed all the steps to get my spot at an exam only for people who were already Lifeguards. So we only took the final exam. Here in Portugal for a person to earn entry to a course, said person must be able to swim 100 meters in 1 minute and 50 seconds, catch two sticks underwater without the help of swimming googles and swim on his/her back only using both legs for about twenty meters or so. Nothing demanding really, if you have some swimming technique.

After this, you’re up for a month of intensive training and theory lessons which will lead you to the final exam, that is split into three distinct parts. Theory, practical theory and physical exams. All of the exams are eliminatory, so if you fail, you have to take the whole exam another time.


Surprisingly, of the 21 that were to take the exam, only eight appeared. We began by the theory exam, which consists of 20 questions with four multiple choices each. You need to get at least 75% to pass, which isn’t that high, but the language is tricky, just like the driving license code test, here in Portugal. Although I got 90%, I had five questions which I did not know how to answer right away, and that freaked me out a little at first, but I guess I made good judgements in most of them.

After a five minutes pause, we went for the practical theory. The examiners asked us questions about CPR, the rescue algorithm, and some other Lifeguard stuff regarding materials, pools, beaches and so on. Then we did a CPR simulacrum about an adult and a child, where we came across the victim and had to perform the algorithm step by step on the doll.

Everyone cleared this stage as well, and then we moved to the pools where the physical and in my opinion, hardest part of the exam takes place. First comes 100 meters in under 1 minute and 40 seconds. One of us couldn’t make it in this test. I must confess, my nerves get through the roof in this kind of exams, it’s not that they are that demanding, be it in theory or physically, but it just stresses me so much that I believe it even affects my physical performance. While swimming, I felt as if my lungs were burning, and that was the first test. Unfortunately one of the participants did not pass this one. Next was the test in which we had to dive and swim for around 20 meters underwater, grab a human doll, and bring it to the surface. This was the most difficult for me, because it comes right after the 100 meters, so you have to calm down quickly. It’s all a matter of mind over body. I was the second to go and I must say, I did it by cheer force of will and with clenched teeth because until I got to the doll, my chest was burning up! But then, once I got to it and turned it around, I was ok and all that stress just went away. I’m just stupidly nervous, it’s ridiculous.

After that were the 400 meters in under 9 minutes and 15 seconds. All of us passed too, with just one of the participants coming really close to the end of the time of approval. I went a little slower than what I’m used to swim, but since I got good swimmers ahead of me, I was swimming slower while keeping track of their progress. Once this was done, only a rescue simulacrum was left to be completed and usually no one fails this one. As castaways, we began as tired, then got panicked, and finally unconscious, so every kind of approach was tested during this last trial, having towed and placed the castaways on a firm place ready for SBV/CPR, out of the pool. Everything went well and we got our licences for more three years of service.

Overall the course isn’t a piece of cake, but I don’t think that it is that hard either. Over the course of a month, you train a lot and you get smacked with the the same thing over and over until it gets a place in your brain, so if you clear the entry exam, you will certainly be able to clear the final one if you train hard and don’t slack during classes.

Expect an entry coming up earlier than the season, because I’ll probably volunteer to patrol the shorelines on the weekend, and since it will be a first for me, I’ll write my experience on it.

Enjoy this brief period of Summer in Spring here in Portugal, and stay safe!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s