One of the first orders of business when Malibu City Hall reopened to the public Tuesday, February 22, was to honor a Malibu resident for his years of service to the community. Rob LeMond was finally given the 2021 Jake Kuredjian Citizenship Award that was delayed due to City Hall’s previous lengthy closure.
LeMond was recognized for his five decades of teaching local children to swim. In a city bordered by miles of beaches and home to a multitude of swimming pools, those are important lessons.
In a nomination letter, resident Laura Lazara reminded that the number one cause of accidental death for children under 5 is drowning.
“Given the statistic, we could only assume that Rob has prevented potential tragedy by teaching so many kids how to swim over the past 50-plus years,” she said.
Celebrity Gary Busey, his wife Steffanie, and son Luke were on hand for the presentation. Malibu Community Services Deputy Director, Kristin Riesgo, said a video of the presentation would be shown at City Hall at a later date.
LeMond, a competitive swimmer as a youngster, estimates he’s taught more than 15,000 kids to swim.
He started more than 50 years ago at Malibu West as a swim instructor because he was too young to work as a beach lifeguard. Residents in Malibu and surrounding communities hosted him at their private pools for lessons until he built his own pool 17 years ago at his Malibu residence. He also teaches ocean safety each summer at the beach.
Originally it was “learning about the waves, diving under waves, getting used to the surf and swimming out past the waves,” LeMond explained. The program then grew when parents wanted to add to their children’s water proficiency.
The importance of learning to swim and ocean safety is foremost for LeMond.
“Considering where we live, so close to the ocean, and with so many pools, it’s absolutely essential,” he said. “People know this. It’s something you have to do. The skill I’m going to teach your child just might save their life.”
Numerous times parents have thanked LeMond after their children were either caught in a rip current or in a precarious water situation and “knew what to do.” LeMond says when he hears from parents in these situations, “It warms my heart.”
When parents mention to the seasoned swim instructor about “water safeing” (sic) their baby he says, “The term water safety has to be used judiciously.”
LeMond stresses that children still need to be supervised near water and that swimming lessons are not a substitute for supervision. He urges safety covers and fences around pools.
“Don’t be complacent even if you think your children can swim,” he said. “Always be watching them all the time.”
LeMond grew up in Santa Monica. A fun fact is that his father, Bob LeMond, was a well-known radio and television announcer. During the 1950s and ’60s Bob LeMond could be heard voicing the opening to “Ozzie and Harriet” and other popular programs. His was the voice behind the iconic phrase “… and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver” from the “Leave it to Beaver” television show.
The Jake Kuredjian Citizenship Award is given by the Malibu Parks and Recreation Commission to recognize a group or person who gives their time and resources to enhance the quality of parks and recreation programs within the Malibu community.
The award was created to honor Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Hagop “Jake” Kuredjian, who was killed in the line of duty in 2001 after 17 years of service. Deputy Kuredjian was presented the Gold Meritorious Conduct Medal in 1989 for rescuing a woman from a cliff in Malibu. Past recipients have demonstrated a commitment to and involvement in recreation in Malibu and, in doing so, demonstrated the highest level of citizenship while making a lasting contribution to the community.
LeMond’s legacy in Malibu continues.
“After decades of working with Malibu children, he is now teaching swimming and water safety to his students’ children,” Lazara added. “Rob is always active and present during his camps and lessons to help provide kids the skills they need to be safe in the ocean. He teaches the kids to respect each other, the ocean and its living creatures.”