Controversial Myrtle Beach lifeguard practices unlikely to change for 2021 beach season

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File photo (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Lifeguards in Myrtle Beach have two main roles — keep a watch on swimmers in the ocean, and help people rent beach umbrellas and chairs — the second of which has brought controversy to the city. It appears those practices won’t change for the 2021 season.

At Wednesday’s Myrtle Beach Beach Advisory Committee meeting, Lack’s Beach Service Operations Manager Weslyn Lack-Chickering said it would be “pretty much close to impossible” for the lifeguard franchise to change its existing franchise agreement and have changes in place for the 2021 beach season.

The city currently has contracts with two lifeguard franchises — Lack’s Beach Service and John’s Beach Service. Those agreements run until 2024, meaning the agreements would need to be changed before any practices change.

The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) has been recommending the city change its practices for years, as some say the current practice is unsafe. During a meeting in November, the committee talked about changing the life guards to “lifeguard onlys” and hiring others to run concessions.

News13 previously reported that lifeguards in Myrtle Beach are not certified by the USLA due to these practices. The association won’t certify any lifeguard agency if it is assigned to anything other than public safety.

In 2019, the family of a man who drowned in Myrtle Beach in 2018 filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the lifeguards were focused on renting beach umbrellas and chairs at the time of the drowning.

The committee mentioned trying to get the changes in place for the 2022 season instead.

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