Meet Joe Jansen… An Award Winning and Dedicated South Walton Fire District Lifeguard


Life As A Lifeguard

Eager to talk to Joe Jansen, Lifeguard of the Year in 2016 for the South Walton Fire District, I arrived at Lifeguard Tower 9.  Tower 9 is at the Ed Waline Beach Access, where I waited as he completed a training exercise in the water.  I took pictures of the different equipment the lifeguards utilize.  These range from the beach wheelchair to the four-wheeler and the rescue board to the can and the buoy.  It’s easy to see why there is a law requiring 10 feet of clearance on every side of each lifeguard station.  This space is used for the lifeguard equipment and service vehicles in emergencies.

Joe JansenAfter waiting a few minutes, Joe radioed the lifeguard tower above me about his impending return to shore.  As this unfolded, I realized what a professional and well organized operation the South Walton Fire District has created for the public at large.  Joe requested a clear path for him to safely return and exit the water on the jet ski, and arrived for his interview.  During the interview he shared with me his passion and love for lifeguarding.

He moved to Walton County in early 2016 after selling his business.  A random conversation with a stranger led him to investigate a new career as a lifeguard with the South Walton Fire District. Before he knew it, he was at the Lifeguard Training Facility, mastering the 500-meter swim time requirement. Joe, along with another veteran lifeguard, passed it on the first try. Joe said he works hard to be the best he can at whatever he is doing, whether it’s his job or his hobby of making furniture. Says David Vaughan, Director of Beach Safety for the South Walton Fire District, “He’s a beast of an athlete who squashes any excuse that age plays a role in diminished athletic performance.” 

In addition to being a lifeguard, Joe is a certified United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) Instructor.  He assists the lifeguards with daily physical training exercises that keep them on top of their game and prepared in the event that their skills are needed in a rescue.  David says, of Joe’s 2016 Lifeguard of the Year Award,  “After quickly mastering every trick in the book we had for him, he then turned to ensuring all guards held and pushed the standards forward.  He’s a humble and effective mentor who’s already been tagged as an essential part of the team.  Joe helped with Juniors, every special event, came early & stayed late for every double red flag day, rescued people, and was a perfect steward of our equipment and expectations.”  Lifeguard Jet Ski

Joe said the 67 lifeguards on staff go through a rigorous training process that includes meeting swimming and running requirements, first aid emergency responder training and additional USLA training. The USLA training requirements stipulate that lifeguards must be able to run, swim, paddle and make water rescues in order to be certified. For more information on how to become a South Walton Fire District lifeguard, CLICK HERE.

Joe wants the public to know that the lifeguards are in their towers to help keep the public safe. In addition to rescues, he said that good lifeguards stop things they see happening before they become dangerous to help prevent tragedies. Joe told me that all the lifeguards on staff work hard at their jobs.  Lifeguards are kind, resourceful and help whenever they are needed, from supplying band-aids to assisting with any emergency along the beach. Joe said, “Every lifeguard is a trained first responder and has a duty to care.” He told me there has never been a fatality in the beach areas being covered by lifeguards while they were on duty. This proves that they are all doing an awesome job!

Joe recommends that people prepare for the beach by becoming familiar with the rules and ordinances, staying hydrated and using sunscreen.  He also suggested that if you have a serious medical condition, such as diabetes, tell the lifeguards so they can be aware and assist you if needed.

Lifeguard Towers

Lifeguards are stationed at each Walton County Tourist Development Council sponsored beach access from March 1st to September 30th, from 10am to 6pm.

Inlet Beach Regional Access

438 South Orange Street Center

Panama City Beach, FL 32459

Santa Clara Regional Beach Access

3468 E Co Hwy 30-A

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

 Van Ness Butler Regional Beach Access

 1931 E Co Hwy 30-A

 Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Grayton Dunes Regional Beach Access

288 Garfield Street

Grayton Beach, FL 32459

Blue Mountain Regional Beach Access

 2365 S Co Hwy 83

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Gulfview Heights Regional Beach Access

186 Gulfview Heights Street

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Ed Walline Beach Access

4447 W. Co Hwy 30-A

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Dune Allen Regional Beach Access

5753 W. Co Hwy 30-A

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Geronimo Beach Access

735 Scenic Gulf Drive

Miramar Beach, FL 32550

Miramar Beach Regional Beach Access

 2375 Scenic Gulf Dr

Miramar Beach, FL 32550

Joe Jansen… An Award Winning and Dedicated South Walton Fire District Lifeguard

2 Responses

  1. Bill
    | Reply

    Interesting post!

  2. juli Anne schultz
    | Reply

    Joe always gives 110% in everything he does. I’m really happy for him!

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