By Adam Andrzejewski
March 27, 2021
Being a lifeguard in California can be unbelievably lucrative. If we had only known, many of us would have packed our bags and headed west for a career on the California beach.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found that lifeguards make a fortune in Los Angeles County. Seven lifeguards made more than $300,000 and 82 lifeguards had total earnings that exceed $200,000 in 2019, the latest year available.
Fernando Boiteux was the most highly paid and earned $391,971. As the “acting chief lifeguard,” he out-earned 1,000 of his peers: salary ($205,619), perks ($60,452), and benefits ($125,900).
The second highest paid, Captain Daniel Douglas, pulled down $140,706 in base pay, and a whopping $131,493 in overtime pay, with $21,760 in “other pay” and $74,709 in benefits. Total compensation amounted to $368,668.
Overtime pay drove earnings into corporate executive range.
Thirty-one lifeguards made between $50,000 and $131,493 in overtime during the year. For example, Daniel Douglas (comp: $368,668; overtime: $131,493), Jaro Snopek (comp: $292,455; overtime:$119,669) and James Orr (comp: $281,270; overtime: $113,015) each made over $100,000 in overtime alone.
Furthermore, we found that most of the top-paid lifeguards were men. In fact, only two of the top-twenty high-earners were women: Virginia Rupe ($281,000), a captain, and Christine Linkletter ($279,980), a section chief.
You might assume that high pay rewarded great heroism, but you’d be wrong. We found that many of the lifeguards who won the Medal of Valor – exhibiting bravery for saving lives – failed to crack the top of the county’s payroll.
The 2020 Medal of Valor winner, Edward “Nick” Macko, an ocean lifeguard specialist, earned “only” $134,144 in compensation. His compensation ranked 167th out of the 1,001 employees in the L.A. lifeguard corps.
Macko jumped into the rough waters in a remote Palos Verdes gorge and pulled a man to safety through potentially skull-crushing swells and over razor-sharp rocks. Most of his rescue was captured on videoand shows why he earned the honor.
The 2019 Valor award winners, Ocean Lifeguard Specialists Shaun Gudmundsson (comp: $165,761) and Ruben Carmona (comp: $194,919), “performed an extremely dangerous nighttime water rescue” of two trapped fishermen from hurricane-caused rising tides and surf.
Another 2019 Valor winner, Jon Van Duinwyk (comp: $238,434), singlehandedly rescued a 70-year-old man trapped inside a 25-foot sailboat during a huge storm surf off Dockweiler Beach. The lifeguard “risked his life to enter the vessel, extricate the elderly man, as the boat was breaking up in the 8 foot shore pound.”
Beach lifeguard pay dwarfs that of their colleagues at the pools. We found 332 pool lifeguards in L.A. County, but the highest paid “senior pool lifeguard” made only $46,997, including pay and benefits.
Why beach lifeguards earn so much money is a question L.A. taxpayers might start asking. A lifeguard’s job can be dangerous, but it’s unclear why residents should foot the bill for so much overtime when the state’s public employees already cost taxpayers $45 billion a year.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com compiled these numbers from Freedom of Information Act requests as well as benefit data listed at Transparent California.
LA’s 2020 Beach Closure Order
On March 27, 2020, L.A.’s Department of Public Health closed all its beaches, which stayed closed until May 13, 2020. It said the closure was necessary “to both enforce social distancing measures and stem the spread of COVID-19 within the community.” The L.A. beaches closed again over Fourth of July weekend “due to concerns about excessive crowds,” reopened the following Monday, and have stayed open since.
2017 Beach Awards news
2019 Beach Awards news and news
Forbes: Why California Is In Trouble – 340,000 Public Employees With $100,000 Paychecks Cost Taxpayers $45 Billion.