lifeguards competition clearwater

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Clearwater, Florida -- Tampa Bay has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Tourists and locals alike flock to the waves all year long to enjoy a day in the surf. This week, Clearwater Beach is the site of the Southeast Regional Surf Lifesaving Championships.

"All of these competition events and things that we are doing today are all for good and fun but we also take this back to our agencies and we use them as training so we know what to expect when we do have somebody 200 to 300 yards offshore and we need to get them back to safety," said local lifeguard John Sleppy.

More than 200 lifeguards -- from young to old -- will be challenged with swimming and land events. All of them are geared toward using the skills lifeguards need to make rescues.

"This is our first time coming out here and we've having just a great time," said Christy Retier, a lifeguard from Flagler Beach.

Lifeguards came from as far away as Australia to compete. The event mixes fun with intensity. The drills mimic real-life scenarios that the lifeguards face during lifesaving scenarios.

One of the major issues in ocean waters is getting caught in rip currents. Statistics show that more people die in Florida in an average year because of a rip current than hurricanes, lightning strikes and tornadoes combined.

Escaping them can be difficult, but not impossible.

"If you get stuck in a current and can't get back to shore, especially, for instance, a rip current, just ride that current out. Sometimes they go pretty far," Sleppy said. "The best way to get out of a rip current is to swim parallel to the shoreline and wait for that pull to let you go. The most important thing to remember is not to fight the current because it will take you down."

The lifeguards in the competition had to deal with 3- to 4-foot seas on Thursday.

The competition continues at Pier 60 on Friday and visitors can watch the lifeguards compete in swimming, running, rowing, and paddling among other rescue techniques.

Hundreds of lifeguards are ready for competition, but are also getting a safety lessson.

This is the schedule for Friday:

8 - 9 a.m.: 2k Beach Run Open (M/W), Senior (M/W), Master's (M/W), Vets and Super Vets (M/W)

9 - 9:30 a.m.: Singles Surfboat Open (M/W) Final Only

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.: Run-Swim-Run Open (M/W), Senior (M/W), Master's (M/W), Vets and Super Vets (M/W)

10:30 - 11:45 a.m.: American Ironman Open (M/W), Senior (M/W), Master's (M/W), American Ironwoman Vets and Super Vets (M/W)

11:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Lunch

12:30 - 1:30 p.m.: Landline Rescue Open (M/W) Final Only

1:30 - 2:15 p.m.: Rescue Board Rescue Open (M/W) Final Only

2:15 - 3:30 p.m.: Doubles Surf Boat Open (M/W), Senior (M/W), Master's (M/W), Vets and Super Vets (M/W)

3:30 - 4:15 p.m.: Run Relay Open (M/W) Final Only

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