Local towns dealing with lifeguard shortages as summer looms

WELLFLEET, Mass. — Not all beaches are going to have a full staff of lifeguards this year as cities and towns deal with lifeguard shortages.

The beaches are filling up as the summer season ramps up. Lifeguards go on duty for the summer this weekend in Wellfleet, but not all towns are having luck finding enough lifeguards.

Wellfleet Director of Community Service Suzanne Grout Thomas said they are one of the luckier towns being able to bring back many of their lifeguards. Barnstable still needs dozens more.

“There is a shortage of lifeguards altogether when you can make money more as a helper for a landscaper than make as a lifeguard and it costs $600 for your certification. It doesn’t make financial sense,” Thomas said.

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The pandemic has created worker shortages in many businesses. Wellfleet said it worked to boost hourly pay to help recruit more help.

“You can pick and choose what job you have this year. If you are only doing it because it made better money than something else, […] now you can make better money,” Thomas said.

Officials are urging all parents to be very aware of lifeguard status at whatever beach they choose.

“If you do go to a beach for whatever reason and lifeguards are not on duty, there will be a sign that says that. Don’t go out beyond your waist. It’s just not worth it,” Thomas said.

“We have witnessed the lifeguards having to go in and save people because of the rip tides,” one parent said.