RSTC Swim Test and US Navy Swim Test Questions

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Trace Malinowski

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I finally was able to track down the history of the USLA 500-meter swim test for surf lifeguards without the easy button known as Dr. Sam Miller III. It was a political decision that was a compromise between the American Red Cross 500-yard swim in their Advanced Lifesaving course and a 600-yard swim test performed by lifeguards from the National Park Service at Gateway National Recreational Area in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Gateway lifeguards implemented research by Dr. Kenneth Cooper. Dr. Cooper had been hired to create fitness standards for the military. He discovered a correlation between VO2 max and time/speed/distance. The 1.5-mile run in 12 minutes or less is one example of his research on military fitness standards. The Gateway lifeguards had to complete the 600-yard swim in less than 10 minutes. They were the first lifeguard agency to implement a fitness test based on scientific research.

Until that point, swim tests were arbitrary. A conference on aquatics safety was held at Texas A&M in Galveston in 1980. The following entities were in attendance:

• American Camping Association
• American National Red Cross
• Boy Scouts of America
• Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics
• Girl Scouts of the United States of America
• National Center for Disease Control
• National Park Service
• National Safety Council
• National YMCA
• United States Coast Guard
• United States Lifesaving Association

One of the goals of the conference was to develop a timed swim standard for lifeguards. They decided to keep the Red Cross 500-yard distance and convert it to metric because they thought the USA was going to adopt the metric system in the near future. That gave them a 500-meter distance, which was also seen as a compromise between the Red Cross's 500-yard swim and Gateway's 600-yard swim at 550 yards. But they kept Gateway's "in less than 10 minutes" time limit for the test. They expected all agencies to adopt the new standard, but by 1984 only the United States Lifesaving Association adopted the new standard for surf lifeguards.

When I took the Red Cross Advanced Lifesaving/WSI course in college in 1988, we had to swim 500 yards in 10 minutes or less. The Red Cross has since dropped that standard to the no time limit it had before the 1980 conference for waterfront lifeguards and pool lifeguards only have to swim 300 yards but must demonstrate basic strokes.

Now that I know that history, my next question is "Where did the RSTC 200-yard swim test and 10-minute water tread/survival float come from?"

I'm thinking that it must have its roots in the United States Navy's swim test for sailors. In Advanced Lifesaving, the first skills we learned were how to tread water and inflate clothing for flotation as the US Navy teaches. They no longer teach this as part of the American Red Cross Lifeguard Training course. I think it is a shame they stopped teaching "lifesaving" vs. "lifeguarding" because lifesaving prepared you for situations outside the work environment when you might not have equipment.

My thought is that the RSTC's basic watermanship must be based upon the Navy due to the short swim distance.

Does anyone know the origin of the minimum swim test for open water divers?

For you US Navy veterans, how did the Navy teach/test you for swimming and how did they determine what swim rating to give you?
 

TravelGas

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The most common Ocean Lifeguard test is a 200 yard pool swim, NYC Beach Lifeguards swim 440 yards, Jones Beach NYS State Park Lifeguards annual re qual swim is 100 yards, Town of Hempstead NY Beach Lifeguards hire & re-hire swim 200 yards, Long Beach Lifeguards hire & Re-qual is 200 yards. All the above are USLA Chapters. There is a major Lifeguard shortage nationwide, kids today no longer desire the job. Hope that helps.
 

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Surf lifesaving Australia. This is the minimum requirement for a surf lifesaver.
Not the Pro life savers, paid by the local councils, the one who give up their time free.
The basic course.

At the completion of their training, a candidate’s physical fitness is tested by a 200 metre run – 200 metre swim – 200 metre run (run/swim/run) in under 8 minutes. A pool swim of 400 metres is to be completed in under 9 minutes; simulated rescues using a rescue board and tube. All these skills combine to train candidates to be an effective member of a patrol team tasked with providing a safe beach and aquatic environment.
This is required before you start training.
All members are required to complete a 400 metre swim in 9 minutes or less, in a swimming pool of no less than 25 metres or over a measured, open-water, course.
 
OP
Trace Malinowski

Trace Malinowski

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The most common Ocean Lifeguard test is a 200 yard pool swim, NYC Beach Lifeguards swim 440 yards, Jones Beach NYS State Park Lifeguards annual re qual swim is 100 yards, Town of Hempstead NY Beach Lifeguards hire & re-hire swim 200 yards, Long Beach Lifeguards hire & Re-qual is 200 yards. All the above are USLA Chapters. There is a major Lifeguard shortage nationwide, kids today no longer desire the job. Hope that helps.
At some point, all beach patrols whose programs are certified by the USLA must swim 500 meters in less than 10 minutes. The USLA is a stickler for that. Chris Brewster edits both the magazine for the USLA and oversees certification. I've written for the USLA magazine and Chris is insanely picky and thorough. Beach patrols who cheat on the 500-meter swim get booted from the USLA.
 

TravelGas

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Trace, let me start with I am not arguing with you, nor disagreeing with what you are putting out. I am giving current information from someone who works on one of the above patrols as recently as last weekend / Labor Day weekend.

If Chris Brewster / USLA are such sticklers, then why are they letting all of the Patrols in the NYC and Long Island areas not follow USLA Mandates ? Could it be because USLA does not want to lose the monies from the above patrol's Junior Lifeguard programs and the man membership fess paid bu the Lifeguards from the non compliant above patrols? If Beach Patrols who cheat on the 500 yard swim USLA requirment get booted, then how come not one of the above have gotten the boot from USLA ?

Long Beach Lifeguards has not had a 500 yard pool swim as part of their test since around 1985. So if at some point the USLA is going to force the 500 yard swim it has been 37 years since they last gave it, not enough time for the USLA to take action ? The Lifeguard shortage is so bad and the quality of applicants has been getting worse each year for so many years now, Long Beach also shortened the hiring and re hiring run from 2 miles to one mile. Even with watering down the test, all of the above patrols are short handed by 30-40% of what used to be normal full staffing levels. In short, the tests are getting easier, not harder. No Agency is going to a 500 yard swim.
 

TravelGas

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Well, we're both right. There is not a single beach patrol in New York that is certified by the USLA at the moment. https://www.usla.org/page/CERTIFIEDAGENCIES
Interesting discussion and link. I am not surprised about N.Y..

If you talk to Chris ask him when was the last time an agency in N.Y. was certified ? I bet it was a long time ago. It seems like there should be a standard. Like National Ski Patrol has a National Standard to meet for refresher each year and almost all Ski Resorts follow it, it should be the same with USLA but it isn't.

For the record, I do think a 500 yard swim is unnecessary, as that will never happen in real life, but a more realistic standard like 100 or 200 yards and get everyone on board then a lot more agencies would be certified by USLA.

The NYC Ocean Lifeguard hire and re hire test is 440 yards in pool around 6:30. That is moving along, no joke.
 

TravelGas

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Trace do you have a link for USLA Chapters ? Maybe you can be a Chapter, but not a certified agency ? If you can't be a chapter unless you are a cert' Agency, then there is some false advertising going on in N.Y..
 

dmaziuk

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For the record, I do think a 500 yard swim is unnecessary, as that will never happen in real life, but a more realistic standard like 100 or 200 yards ...

... in open water, starting with a run from shore and into the surf. I'm not sure a pool swim of 2-3 times the distance is a reasonable substitute, but I can see why one would want to make it a bit... more taxing.
 

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