From Baywatch to Barleycove: New lifeguard academy launched in Cork

Barleycove beach. Photo: Ian Flavin.

From Baywatch to Barleycove - a new beach lifeguard academy has been launched in Cork.

And far from producing 'slow-motion running' lifeguards more focused on their looks, this academy will produce a steady stream of highly-trained rookie lifeguards equipped with an internationally-recognised qualification.

The academy has been developed by Cork County Council’s water safety office, led by water safety officer, Caroline Casey, in partnership with Water Safety Ireland and Midleton College. It is being facilitated by beach lifeguard tutor, Graham Kerr.

12 students from Midleton College, which has its own swimming pool, are in training but Ms Casey said the academy will be expanding from September.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for students to gain an internationally-recognised qualification that will allow them to apply to work as beach lifeguards,” she said.

“We are very grateful to Midleton College for working in partnership with the council to get this new initiative off the ground.

“I would encourage post-primary schools interested in working with the council to get in touch.

The academy provides an excellent experience for the students, affording them the opportunity to learn invaluable life-long skills and work-shadowing opportunities on our beaches.

“They will qualify to apply to compete for the much sought-after summer positions at our coastal beach-guard stations.

“This is a well-paid post and the experience of working in a team, communicating with the public, participating in educational initiatives and keeping our beach users as safe as possible - it gives the students a great grounding in the workforce and is great for the CV too.”

She said the academy will prepare recruits for what is an incredibly responsible job - preserving life.

During the peak of last summer’s heatwave, lifeguards had to monitor an average of 180 people in the water per hour every day, and patrolled an average of 15km a day.

Recruits will have to achieve high swimming and running fitness targets, they will study technical rescue skills and the use of rescue equipment, as well as beach management, hazard identification and prevention and patrol techniques, before sitting a Water Safety Ireland-certified exam. They will also job-shadow senior lifeguard teams this summer.

The council covers most of the fees, with schools facing a nominal fee for the exam. Schools interested in the 2019/2020 academy term should register their interest by emailing

With 19% of Ireland’s coastline, the county council hires dozens of beach lifeguards every year to patrol the Front Strand, Claycastle, Redbarn and Garryvoe in East Cork, Fountainstown, Inchydoney East and West, Owenahincha, The Warren, Tragumna and Barleycove in West Cork, and Garretstown and Garrylucas in the Kinsale area.

Lifeguards will be on duty from 10.30am to 7pm weekends only from June 1, before patrolling seven-days-a-week through July and August, and continuing through the first two weekends of September.

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