Malibu Lifeguards on Track for Record Rescues

Lifeguards sent a jet ski into the water off of Surfrider Beach last week to monitor the big waves for surfers in distress. 

Ocean rescues off Malibu beaches are on track to reach an all-time high in 2014, according to lifeguards who came to speak at the Malibu Public Safety Commission last week.

“It’s been a very busy year,” LA County Lifeguard Section Chief Fernando Boiteux said at the meeting. “We are basically on a record tracking for ocean rescues this year — over 4,000 rescues in Malibu.”

Lifeguards suggested that weather may account for the increased number of rescues in the first 10 months of 2014.

Attendance during the summer months of this year totaled almost 10.2 million visitors. This is in comparison to summer 2013, when 9.3 million people came out to enjoy Malibu’s beaches.

From May 25 (Memorial Day this year) through Sept. 21, there were just over 4,200 rescues performed by lifeguards, a massive increase over last year’s 2,628 within the same time frame.

“It was a busy summer,” said Capt. Dan Murphy as he compared the two data sets.

The increase didn’t begin on Memorial Day, though, said Boiteux.

“It’s almost like it’s been a summer since January. In January we had 90-degree days, Santa Ana [winds] and so forth,” Boiteux said, adding that the hot weather looks to continue into October.

Despite the dramatic increase in ocean rescues, Boiteux expressed confidence in his crew.

“There’s no staffing increase, they’re going to stay stable,” Boiteux said.

Boiteux also addressed concerns over beach erosion, saying that the natural ebb and flow of the ocean means there’s not too much to worry about.

“They’re not as bad as they were right after the storm,” Boiteux said of sand dunes that suffered from the record-high pounding waves in August.

Ocean rescues appear to have increased as a result of an increase in visitors to the beach. However, the same statistic correlation does not exist when it comes to traffic collisions on the Pacific Coast Highway, which according to Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Lt. Jim Royal have remained fairly steady over the past 10 years.

According to Royal, a study has been done charting the number of accidents on PCH.

“Are we having more collisions year over year?” Royal prefaced. “The answer is, ‘no.’”

According to Royal, numbers have barely statistically risen despite massive increases in traffic.

“The mean is somewhere in the 425-450 range year over year over year,” Royal said. “Visitor numbers are definitely up … they’re exponential, they’re huge … we are not seeing a corresponding increase in collisions.”

Royal said that station traffic Sgt. Johnson had a theory for why it seems that accidents are up: social media is broadcasting the information like never before.

“Everyone is more aware,” said Royal. “In 2004, we were having pretty much the same numbers.”