A Lifeguard’s Saga – Ep. 27 – An “Easy” Job

Whoever, as Lifeguard, did not hear: “Oh your job is so easy, you’re just there tanning and watching the sea, how difficult can that be and you’re paid to do so!” I just can’t avoid rolling my eyes when I hear comments of such nature. But today I won’t be talking about the job itself… No… I’ll be talking about what you need to do, to start working as a Lifeguard here in Portugal, with the conditions that most of my recent colleagues had to go through, which are practically the same as I did and still do up to this day, during each season.

So you want to be a Lifeguard? Either to pay your tuition or earn some extra money during the Summer, or even if you just want to be one for the sake of it.

First of all, you need to take the course which costs 195€ (the one closer to me) and clear it for over the duration of one month. The license lasts for 3 years, after that you can take the final exams only, and pay around 35€ to take it. If you want to repeat the classes, then you have to pay for the 195€ again.

Now that you got your license, you need your uniform. Let’s suppose you’re a male so you need a t-shirt (15€) and shorts (14€). Even if you’re going to work for half-time, 35 hours per week, you’ll probably need another pair right? In case you get them wet with sweat or seawater. So, another 29€. But let’s say, you’re working up here in the North, where the wind blows for half the Summer, you won’t enjoy getting cold while on the beach right? There’s a jacket (39€), a sweater (19€) and tracksuit (48€). The average price is 35€ so we’re gonna go with that. There’s also the whistle that is crucial to our job, the decent one, the FOX40, costs about 8€ at Decathlon. And of course, we still need the duckfeet. It is not required for you to buy the official ones that cost 45€, you can buy a pair of decent ones at 25€ at Decathlon, so I’m going to choose the latter.

Now in order to work, you need insurance, this year as well as the other ones, the insurance cost 84€ for the Summer, despite it being one month shorter than the previous Summers thanks to this pandemic. For the association that I work for, we also have to pay 50€ as a tribute to be an associate.

And now, you have the daily costs. Some may change according to the area or even bar in question. But normally in the city where I work at, we have to get our own food, means of transportation, whatever those may be, and of course, sunscreen. Let’s say that for a whole day, in-between snacks, lunch, water, and so on, you’ll use 5€. Let’s use this season as an example with a round number, 60 days, so that gets to 300€. Sunscreen is also a must for a Lifeguard. I’ll opt for the one in Lidl that costs about 5€, for the whole season, I’d say three will suffice, so that gets us to 15€. For transportation, I’m lucky that I live about 5kms away from the beach, so even daily, it doesn’t even cost me 2€ to get there. Let’s say it would cost me 1€, which multiplied by 60 days, costs me 60€, almost a full tank on my car by current prices, although this value is probably an underestimated one.

Now that everything is accounted for, let’s get the salaries upfront.

575€ for half a day shifts, which lead up to 35 hours weekly, 5 hours daily.

1150€ for full-day shifts, which lead up to 70 hours weekly, 10 hours daily, with no lunchtime included, which means, you eat but you have to remain vigilant and if something occurs, it’s your responsibility of course.

So everything accounted for, if I’d wanted to take the course now and buy everything from scratch and survive through the Summer of Covid19, 470€ are already down the drain while going over 830€ with fuel and food by the end of the season against the 2300€ that will be earned by the end of season and that’s for 70 hours a week, 10 hours a day, everyday, otherwise the amount will only go down past that.

Sure that it would compensate a lot more if everything was normal, and we were about to earn 3450€ if the season was to be composed of the normal three months but even so, can you imagine what it is going for 10 hour shifts everyday? Sure you can say that we can get days off, but a day off each week drops the value down to 1000€ +/- and we probably will waste money on that day so… What’s really the point of having a day off? To get paid less and probably waste more?

There’s a reason why there are about two thousand new Lifeguards trained every year, and the reason is quite apparent to me. People just don’t want to work under such conditions and since college students use this as a part time, they don’t really care about the beach or maximizing their income, which then causes Lifeguards to take days off to go to festivals, parties and what not, leaving the beaches with a very tight number of sentinels to be opened and watched over.

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