Wanted: Good swimmers. Experience with sun and surf a plus. Life preservers provided. Must be willing to give mouth-to-mouth to New Yorkers.
With vast stretches of its beaches closed because of a shortage of lifeguards, New York City has placed ads for lifeguards on the Internet and in magazines, hoping to reach places known for strong swimmers - even as far away as California and Australia.So far, surfer dudes from the land of "Baywatch" aren't biting.
"I don't think any of them would want to go to New York City," said lifeguard Lt. Roger Smith from his perch overlooking Zuma Beach in Malibu, Calif. "There's no surf."
New York has hired 420 lifeguards to fill the 600 spots at its ocean beaches, said Edward Sky-ler, a spokesman for the Parks Department. And another 600 spots need to be filled soon, before city pools open July 2.
To become a lifeguard, applicants must be at least 16, pass a 40-hour course and swim 440 yards in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. The average lifeguard is paid nearly $9 per hour for a 48-hour work week.
Last year, the city was only able to hire 870 lifeguards because of a lack of qualified candidates. The city was able to open all its pools but parts of some beaches were closed.
Nobody's sure what's causing the lifeguard drought. Educators and parks employees suspect it's a combination of a strong job market and a lack of swimming skills.
"Swimming skills are not emphasized the way they were historically in high school and college," said Alan Moss, deputy commissioner of the parks department. "The other thing is that we're losing people because of the economy. They can work in air-conditioned offices and have their weekends off rather than sit in the hot sun."
An attempt to lure candidates by bringing in "Baywatch" stars Michael Bergin and Angelica Bridges failed. More than 300 people signed up to become lifeguards after the two TV stars visited New York last month but fewer than 10 percent passed the swimming test.
Don Myers, supervisor of Long Beach Township Beach Control, which covers 10 percent of New Jersey's coast, said he anticipated the shortage a decade ago when demographics showed there would be fewer 16- to 24-year-olds.
Myers has taken an aggressive approach, hiring Europeans through student exchange programs and Australians through work visa programs, holding in-house certifications, cruising high school and college jobs fairs and advertising in newspapers to fill his 340 positions.