Lifeguards to slim down during shoulder season

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Fall is prime time for locals to enjoy the beaches without all the crowds. But fewer lifeguards means there won't be as many sets of eyes to watch and keep your family safe.

This weekend was the last big weekend for the beach and for lifeguard services. From here, beachgoers are going to gradually start seeing fewer lifeguards as the weather cools down. But lifeguards aren't completely disappearing.

"A lot of our staff this year is staying late in the season, so even though the season might be winding down, we still have plenty of lifeguards out here to patrol the beaches," said Wesley Cox with Lack's Beach Service.

Cox added that after Labor Day, lifeguard hours stay during the same hours, roughly 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., every day of the week.

Starting tomorrow in Myrtle Beach, they'll be at 60 percent capacity until around the end of September, which is about 16 lifeguards over two-and-a-half miles of the beach in Myrtle Beach city limits.

That will drop to 11 lifeguards toward the end of October.

If you're planning a beach visit with your family, make it a priority to go to a spot where there will be someone to look after you.

"The lifeguards, they're sort of like a sense of security to them too. Because, the people, you know, if they get hurt, or at least lose a child they can have the lifeguards go up and down the beach looking, contacting other people, other lifeguards," said Nick Papas, a local resident.

Look for the busiest places on the beach - around resorts and the bigger hotels. Until lifeguards are gone from the beaches, the places with the most people are where you'll find the lifeguards.

Luckily, Labor Day weekend was calm. Lifeguards report there were very few assists, but there was some rip current activity on Saturday.

Cox said, "The lifeguard can also let you know if there's any rip currents out there, if the jelly fish are bad, or any other kind of aquatic hazards. This time of the year, a lot of bait fish start running and usually the bigger fish eat the smaller fish, so if we have any big fish out there that might be a hazard."

Cox says if it stays unseasonably warm through the rest of the year, the company will keep lifeguards out patrolling the waters longer. Last year, they were out until November 10. But if it cools down early and is too cold for the beach, guards won't stay out late into fall.

A few changes go into effect in Myrtle Beach after Labor Day:

September 2 - Dogs are allowed on the beach at all times and surfing is allowed.

Beach tents will also be allowed back starting September 15 in Myrtle Beach.

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