Forget “BayWatch”, think KidWatch Extraordinaire. Who knew those quintessential singles, the famous First Responders of our surf-churned Pacific frontier, were so utterly awesome with, for and to … kids?

All up and down our beaches, throughout LA County and beyond, the United States Lifesaving Association runs an incredibly successful kids’ program. “Success” is easy to measure in this context: hundreds and hundreds of children seem to just love being “Junior Guards” (JGs). They turn out in uniformed droves either every morning or afternoon, seemingly eager for hours of rigorous exercise. The program is so popular it is administered online, with whole beaches’ worth of spaces literally disappearing before your very eyes during open registration. Older, returning JGs are at least as well represented as newbies.  And while some kids are no-doubt less eager than others, every day the happiness feels palpable as hoards stagger off the beaches, healthy and glowing.

There are a lot of things to love about this program. One of its charms is that it draws kids from inland out to the beaches. If a kid can pass a certain minimum swimming standard, they’re eligible. There is transportation and financial aid so socioeconomic mixing is far more fluid than during the school year. Self-confidence is nurtured through lessons on water safety and first-aid techniques. Civic responsibility and pride is trained, not just discussed, by teaching preventative safety measures and elementary CPR.

There is a friendly rivalry between beaches through lifesaving-oriented competitions mastering components of beach lifeguarding: running through the sand, judging the shifting treachery of waves and currents, calling forth strategy and good judgment. Different age-groups on different beaches do different, special activities – e.g., swim/dive off Catalina, explore a sea cave approachable only at certain tides from the ocean, jump from their pier, a thrill ordinarily illegal to any but certified LA County Lifeguards.

Being so impressed with and grateful for this reasonably priced, egalitarian, really, really fun, useful and instructive safety program, imagine my happiness at receiving this timely email titled: Vote for JGs for 2013 Totally Awesome Awards Vote! Click the last button, “Don’t see your favorite?” And then type in “Junior Lifeguards”.

I was also exhorted to: “Send to all your friends!”; hopefully CityWatchLA readers will count. But please note that voting subscribes you to Red Tricycle’s newsletter automatically.

All of us — our families, neighbors and children — are really fortunate to have available such a fantastic program, taught by truly dedicated, talented, public servants.