Beach Guide with Sarasota County Lifeguard Manager Rick Hinkson

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Pictured: Rick Hinson, Manager of the Sarasota County Lifeguards. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

As the sun grows hotter and your time spent at work seems to drag on even longer than usual, a day spent at the beach seems so appealing. Good thing that there may be no better place in the country than Sarasota to cool off in the clear Gulf waters and sunbathe in the pristine white sand - every year thousands of locals and tourists alike flock to the area for an experience unlike anything else.

The area’s unrivaled beauty, however, is not without its hazards. High heat-indexes, rip currents, and near-daily thunderstorms can ruin a beach day in no time - which make it all the more important to swim in the safety and protection of the Sarasota County Lifeguards.

While they may wear red swim trunks, forget the hair spray and skimpy bathing suits from Baywatch - these lifeguards have a very real and vital duty to beachgoers.

“Our staff consists of 29 full-time open water lifeguards, eight of which are lieutenants, two are captains, and I’m the manager,” says Rick Hinson, Manager of the Sarasota County Lifeguards. “I started here 23 years ago. After three years I became a Lieutenant and spent almost 17 years working all of the beaches. About three years ago, I was promoted to Captain, where I learned how to train our lifeguards,” says Hinkson.

“There are six beaches that we guard over a 35-mile stretch of coastline. Every beach has its own quirks and characteristics. Lido beach is our northernmost beach, housed in the city of Sarasota. Siesta Key beach is the crown jewel - it’s won the whitest sand competition, has been voted the number one beach in America over the years and gets by far the largest footprint of visitors every year,” says Hinkson.

Further south lie Nokomis and North Jetty beaches. “We call those pocket beaches, as they’re much smaller than Lido and Siesta. Both of these beaches also have their own challenges because of a rock jetty - any time there’s a fixed structure, you’re gonna have consistent rip currents or a little more volatility when storms hit,” attests Hinkson.

While the southernmost beaches, Venice - known as the shark tooth capital of the world - and Manasota - are without fixed structures (check), the threat of riptides is still very real at any location. “First and foremost, always swim near lifeguards in safe, designated areas. If you’re in the water and start to feel like you’re in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Rip Currents run perpendicular to the shore, so if you’re swimming parallel to the shore, hopefully you can swim out of it. Most importantly, however, is not to panic - we’ll come get you. At the end of the day, our goal is always to have everyone come home with a smile,” says Hinkson. 

Pictured: Rick Hinson, Manager of the Sarasota County Lifeguards. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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