by Kristi Hawthorne, Oceanside Living Magazine
Lifeguarding in its purest form is the struggle against nature by one human endeavoring to save the life of another. Unknown
Blake Faumuina has always been around the water. Growing up in Oceanside, he spent a good portion of his youth at the Marshall Street Pool and learned to swim at an early age. Because he was such a talented swimmer Blake was recruited to join the Oceanside Swim Club when he was just 7 years old. However, as he recalls, he first turned down the invitation. “Hey kid, do you want to join the swim club?” Then came an offer few kids could resist: “Well, we throw candy in the pool every Friday and you dive for it.” To that, Blake responded with: “Free candy? I will swim all you want.” He hasn’t stopped swimming since, and his love of the water has never waned.
Growing up in the aquatics community is like being part of a large family, Blake explained. As a young boy and teenager, he grew up with the kids on the swim team, many of whom also became lifeguards. He has fond memories of his instructor Cheryl Clark and his coach Dave Wilcox. The Marshall Street Pool in South Oceanside was the springboard to his career and indelibly shaped his life.
Growing up in the Fire Mountain neighborhood, Blake attended Palmquist Elementary and Lincoln Junior High, as it was then called. He went to El Camino High School and graduated in 1996.
Blake broke all but two swim records during his time at El Camino High. The records he broke belonged to the senior lifeguards, which he admits was intimidating, especially when the records were previously held by his boss, Lifeguard Captain Bill Curtis.
He began beach lifeguarding part time after he graduated high school. He still remembers his first rescue at the Harbor Beach from Tower 14: A high school student from Rancho Buena Vista was caught in a rip current. Blake and his lieutenant both spotted the struggling swimmer, when the senior lifeguard said to Blake, “Are you going to go?” Blake immediately jumped in the ocean and swam as hard as he could. Asked if he was afraid, Blake said “the training kicks in and focuses your fear” but he never forgets that his job is to guard life every day.
He received a partial scholarship to UCSB and went to school to pursue a career as a marine biologist. However, Blake found that sitting in the classroom was not where he wanted to be and came back home to Oceanside. He continued lifeguarding and in 2002 was hired full time. In 2013 he was promoted to lieutenant.
Blake’s father Larry Faumuina was from Samoa and came here with his family in the 1950s. Larry had a 20 year career with the Oceanside Police Department and was Oceanside’s first Samoan Police Officer.
Blake spent two summers in Samoa as a teenager. He said it was a good experience and in Samoa “no one is depressed or stressed out”; people are happy and their priorities are different. However, he always missed Oceanside. He emphasized that he didn’t miss California, he just missed Oceanside. “It’s the mix, there are so many types of people, different walks of life,” Blake explained. He loves the variety in Oceanside and it’s where he feels most comfortable.
Lifeguarding Oceanside’s beaches is rarely boring. They protect 3.7 miles of beach, from the north jetty to the Buena Vista Lagoon, including St. Malo. Blake says the slow days are the worst days, but the busy days are the best. On a busy day they will do 300 rescues. The “season” typically begins Memorial Day and ends Labor Day, but as Oceanside becomes more popular as a destination spot the season is much longer, nearly year round.
“I love this job,” Blake said of his lifelong career. He’ll stay “as long as they’ll have me.” Blake loves his job so much when he retires he wants to continue working part time, doing what else: lifeguarding.