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Hey, Matt:

If a lifeguard all of a sudden sees a surfer just get nailed by a great white, what is lifeguard protocol? Does he have to go try to save the guy, risking becoming shark fodder as well? Or can he stay on land? What's the deal?

-- Josh, Mira Mesa

Nowhere in the lifeguard oath does it say, "I will voluntarily sacrifice my life by making dumb decisions that only offer a slim chance of helping someone else, thereby making the situation twice as bad as it was to begin with." According to Lt. Brandt Bass, San Diego's head lifeguard, rescuer safety is always the first concern. But that doesn't mean lifeguards will stand on the shore and watch you die. They have options. Boats. Helicopters. Other support personnel. If you're sinking out past heavy surf, they'll use the rip to get around the dangerous waves then come in from the back side. These tactics may take time, but they're safer for everybody.

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