Profiles in Sports: Local lifeguard Rebecca Gilman

This profile is one in a series of people in the Malibu community involved in the world of sports.

By Olivia Damavandi / Assistant Editor

If they haven’t already, local surfers and paddle boarders have a good chance of running into full time Los Angeles County Lifeguard Rebecca Gilman out in the ocean. Gilman approximately three weeks ago for the third time won the women’s division of the 32-mile Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race, which begins at the Isthmus of Catalina Island and ends at the Manhattan Beach Pier. Winning races is a familiar feeling for Gilman, who began swimming competitively at the age of seven. Though her speedy stroke earned the Ventura native a full athletic scholarship to USC, she decided to take a different path that led her to lifeguarding in Malibu. Here, Gilman reflects on her competitive side, her past decisions and her future plans.

You started swimming competitively at age seven. What, if any, affects did that have on your childhood?

Swimming competitively since childhood was not only extremely rewarding-traveling, making great friends-but also a little lonely. I started swimming two workouts per weekday and one on Saturdays at the age of 12. My life revolved around swimming and traveling for swim meets, but I am fortunate to have gained a great work ethic through my training.

Why did you choose to stop swimming competitively after a year at USC?


I received a scholarship to swim at USC but swimming at a division one school was stressful and the sport was becoming more of a job for me than a love. I gained the infamous “freshman fifteen” and my swim times were not great. I was not enjoying swimming anymore.

What made you decide to take the Los Angeles County Lifeguard test?

I took the L.A. County Lifeguard test because an ex-boyfriend had gone through the training and I thought it looked like a great job. I am fortunate that I can now make a career out of working as a full time L.A. County Lifeguard.

Describe your most memorable moment as a lifeguard.

My favorite part of lifeguarding is receiving a simple thank you from the person whom you just plucked out of the water.

How did you get into paddleboard racing?

I was intrigued watching lifeguards compete in the Catalina Classic paddleboard race and told myself that I would compete one day.

You recently became champion of the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race for the third time. How did it compare with the first and second win?

The weather conditions were amazing this year-glassy, no wind-and I had an awesome escort boat who guided me on a great course. The first two times I competed, the wind was pushing me off course and it was frustrating.

What are your plans for the future? Are you thinking about participating in any other upcoming races?

I would love to compete in a few more classics, but for now I want to surf and hang with friends and family.

If you weren’t a lifeguard, what other job would you most like to attempt? Why?

I would have loved to have been a marine biologist, but my math and science skills are horrific so that is out of the question.

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