65 Year Old Sets Age Record for NPS Surfguard Pre-Employment Test

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Date: January 13, 2010
Contact: Carl Martinez, 718-354-4623

Photo of Don Davis, a seasoned lifeguard at Gateway NRA.
Don Davis, a seasoned lifeguard at Gateway NRA.

Family Photo

“Am I the only one on Medicare who is taking the test today?” With these words, Don Davis presented proof of his age as he registered to take the National Park Service’s (NPS) Surf-Lifeguard Pre-Employment Test at Fordham University on January 9. As it turns out, he was. The participant next closest to him in age that day was 49.

Davis, a 65-year-old former chief lifeguard for City of New York Parks Department, successfully completed the test as an annual requirement of all those seeking to work on the surf-lifeguard staff at Gateway National Recreation Area.

Davis’ noteworthy performance was not lost on Gateway National Recreation Area Water Safety Coordinator Carl Martinez or the other test participants. “All participants that day witnessed the truly inspiring power of personal example,” said Martinez. “Whether they were 15 or 49 years old each of them will retain the memory of Don’s feat. And, in life, it really does not get very much better than that.”

The three-part test consists of timed performance objectives designed to measure for factors directly related to surf-lifeguard work, such as speed, strength, and stamina; knowledge of basic swimming-rescue and adult CPR procedures; and readily observable skills in effectively applying such knowledge under stressful conditions.

The first part of the test requires completion of a 600-yard swim in less than 10 minutes (in a 25-yard pool or other measured course, using a swim stroke on the front only). Davis completed the required distance in 9:45 minutes. By contrast, another test-taker, age 20, failed this section of the test with a finish time of 10:03 minutes.

The next section of the test, the speed rescue, involves swimming 50 yards to a dummy; towing that dummy 50 yards back to the starting point; quickly exiting the pool; then performing three cycles of adult CPR on a manikin—all in less than 4 minutes. Davis completed this section of the test in 3:25 minutes.

The final part of the test required completion of a 1½-mile run in less than 12 minutes (on a ¼-mile track or other measured course). Davis completed the required distance in 11:36 minutes. By contrast, another test-taker, age 29, failed this part of the test with a finish time of 12:07 minutes.

Davis passed the required test to qualify for a highly coveted spot on the surf-lifeguard staff of Gateway National Recreation Area. Since the park’s first summer season in 1974, this staff of some 150 dedicated women and men has provided professional life-guarding services to more than 100 million beach goers. Gateway National Recreation Area sees over 9 million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited sites in the National Park System in the largest metropolitan area in the country.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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