California lifeguards' lucrative 'Baywatch' life saw them earning $391,000 a year in 2019, pay hit by pandemic

Open The Books auditors found that lifeguards make a 'fortune' in Los Angeles County -- seven lifeguards made more than $300,000 in 2019. But pay will reduce in 2020 as the pandemic caused public areas -- especially beaches and public pools -- to remain shut for extended periods


                            California lifeguards' lucrative 'Baywatch' life saw them earning $391,000 a year in 2019, pay hit by pandemic
Lifeguards in California earn quite a lot. (Getty Images)
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Ever pictured yourself as David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, or Yasmine Bleeth, confidently running around California beaches, living that fantasy ‘Baywatch’ life? In reality, it’s probably every bit as awesome as it sounds. At least in terms of money. As per Open The Books, a government watchdog organization and transparency advocate, being a lifeguard in California can be unbelievably lucrative.

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Open The Books auditors found that lifeguards make a “fortune” in Los Angeles County -- seven lifeguards made more than $300,000 and 82 lifeguards had total earnings that exceed $200,000 in 2019. Founded by Adam Andrzejewski, Open The Books publishes in-depth oversight reports on the federal, state, and local government entities, with the aim to "put every government expense online in real-time".

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A lifeguard keeps watch as people visit the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn on July 19, 2020, in New York City. (Getty Images)

As per the report, Fernando Boiteux was the most highly paid and earned $391,971. The acting chief lifeguard reportedly out-earned all his peers with a salary of $205,619 along with $60,452 in perks, and $125,900 in benefits. 

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For comparison, the average public school teacher salary in the US for the 2018-2019 school year was $61,730, according to data from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. 

As per Open The Books, Captain Daniel Douglas, who made the second highest in salary, earned $140,706 in base pay, $131,493 in overtime pay, with $21,760 in “other pay”, and $74,709 in benefits. Total compensation amounted to $368,668. Thirty-one lifeguards reportedly made between $50,000 and $131,493 in overtime during the year. 

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A lifeguard wears a mask while guarding the East Hampton Main Beach during Memorial Day Weekend on May 24, 2020, in East Hampton, New York. (Getty Images)

The audit found that most of the top-paid lifeguards were men. In fact, only two of the top-twenty high-earners were women: Virginia Rupe, a captain who made $281,000, and Christine Linkletter, a section chief who made $279,980.

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What’s more, the audit found that many of the lifeguards who won the Medal of Valor -- the highest lifeguard award presented by the United States Lifesaving Association that recognized lifeguards who voluntarily risked their life, to an extraordinary degree, in saving, or attempting to save another person, or who sacrificed themselves for the benefit of others -- did not make the kind of money stated above. 

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The 2020 Medal of Valor winner, Edward “Nick” Macko, an ocean lifeguard specialist, earned $134,144 in compensation. His compensation ranked 167th out of the 1,001 employees in the L.A. lifeguard corps.

The 2019 Valor award winners, Ocean Lifeguard Specialists Shaun Gudmundsson made $165,761, and Ruben Carmona, who rescued two trapped fishermen from hurricane-caused rising tides and surf made only $194,919. Jon Van Duinwyk, who single-handedly rescued a 70-year-old man trapped inside a 25-foot sailboat during a huge storm surf off Dockweiler Beach made $238,434.

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However, the year 2020 will definitely have had an effect on this kind of pay, even if there is no data available for it presently. The coronavirus pandemic caused public areas -- especially beaches and public pools across the United States -- to remain shut for extended periods of time.

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