Longtime lifeguard bids farewell to job, but not to beach

Capt. Jake Jacobsen recently retired after a 37-year career. A party took place in his honor last week at the Sunset Restaurant.

By Olivia Damavandi / Special to The Malibu Times

Three decades in any profession allows plenty of time for error. Lawyers lose cases and doctors lose patients. But recently retired Lifeguard Capt. Jake Jacobsen has never lost a drown victim under his watch. Not one in his 37-year career.

The longtime Malibu resident and Los Angeles County lifeguard’s retirement was celebrated in true local style last week on Tuesday with a party at the Sunset Restaurant on Westward Beach Road, right next to his stomping grounds. Among beautifully lit tables, gourmet dinner and a live paint show by artist Norman Wisdom, numerous friends and family members gathered to commemorate Jacobsen’s career and venerate his accomplishments. It was also a time to reflect their past experiences with him, validating his reputation not only as one of the most outstanding watermen and lifeguards Malibu has ever seen, but as a great captain, leader and mentor to younger generations of life savers.

The retirement ceremony was emceed by lifeguard Joey Everett, who filled the evening with laughs. Guest speakers included sons Jamie, Kelly and Andrew Jacobsen, wife Dru Jacobsen, surf icon and retired Surfrider Beach Lifeguard Capt. John Baker, current L.A. County Lifeguard Capt. Mike Fraser, longtime recurrent lifeguard Scott Hubble, former recurrent lifeguard Greg Brown and Malibu City Councilmember Jefferson Wagner (who delivered Jacobsen his retirement award).

Jamie, who is also a county lifeguard, spoke on behalf of his younger brothers when he said they hope to follow in their father’s footsteps. “You’re the best dad we could have asked for and one day we hope when we have a retirement party we will have all these great friends and family there,” he said.

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Fraser said, “If you want to look at a person’s reflection, look in a mirror. But to look at a person’s heart, look at his friends,” before continuing to evaluate Jacobsen’s themes of optimal performance as his talents of lifeguarding, of being an ultimate waterman, and of having such an amicable personality.

“Everyone likes Jake,” Fraser said. “He is admired and respected by all, and it’s an honor to be a part of his life.”

Greg Pfeifer, who has known and worked as a lifeguard with Jacobsen for 30 years, said, “I worked with Jake when we were both recurrents, then he got promoted to permanent and then captain. He was often my supervisor and boss but I never worked for him, I worked with him. He’s the best boss you could ever have.”

He added, “If you were working with Jake, you were going to have a great day. He always had a positive attitude and great sense of humor, and always said that he took the job seriously but he never took himself seriously. You could talk to him about anything and he always made you laugh.”

Born in Glendale and raised in Eagle Rock, Jacobsen attended Pasadena City College and Cal State Northridge before moving to Malibu in 1971.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated college,” Jacobsen confessed. “But I was a swimmer in high school and college, so I started lifeguarding as a summer job while in college and I fell in love with Malibu, the ocean and the beach.

“One thing led to another, and lifeguarding turned into a career,” he continued. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I knew I loved the ocean, surfing and swimming. So I started lifeguarding fulltime at Zuma [Beach].”

Jacobsen said his career has taught him how to deal with people and get along with the public. “As a supervisor and as a captain, I’ve learned how to give mutual respect and how to get along with people and help them. I’ve learned a lot of people skills,” he explained.

When asked what he will miss most about his career, Jacobsen listed the camaraderie of his fellow lifeguards (some of whom he worked with for more than 30 years), the working at the beach, helping people and never knowing what’s going to happen on any given day of work.

“But I’m not going to miss having to be somewhere at a certain time,” he said.

Although he is retired, don’t expect to see a shortage of Jacobsen at the beach, especially at Zuma. “I plan on spending more time with my family, continuing my water activities and just enjoying Malibu,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

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