NAVARRE BEACH — Despite double red flags and the water being closed to the public, the Navarre Beach lifeguards continued training to save lives in the dangerous Gulf of Mexico on Friday morning.
Navarre Beach Safety Director Austin Turnbull, who has 17 years of lifeguard experience, said they used today as an opportunity to do "rough water training" with some of the newer lifeguards.
The fairly new lifeguard program added 21 new lifeguards this year after the Navarre Beach Fire Rescue took over safety services.
The lifeguards train every morning anyway before going on shift, Turnbull said. But with rough waters and high surf, Turnbull said this allowed for more "real world scenario" training. He said in the past, people have tried to harm themselves by going into the water, and by training with these scenarios in mind, the lifeguards' comfort levels are increased.
"We show them how the surf operates, how to read the surf, and how to search for victims," Turnbull said.
Although victims are usually panicking when being rescued in conditions like 5- to 8-foot surf, Turnbull said the lifeguards remained calm during training
"We recruited an outstanding group of lifeguards," Turnbull said. "There's a mentality you can see when you're hiring."
Conditions were dangerous, but Turnbull ensured the safety of his lifeguards with at least two stationed on the beach in case of an accident.
"The lifeguards safety is always my first priority," he said. "... My job is to make sure they're able to handle themselves in that situation.
"The surf can be dangerous for both the victim and rescuer."
Double red flags have been keeping people out of the water since Thursday as Tropical Storm Barry continues causing dangerous surf and rip currents. But Turnbull said it has not been difficult to keep people out of the water.