Lifeguards to the Rescue
Every year around 800 people are rescued on Puerto’s two major beaches — Playa Zicatela and Playa Principal — by its 12 professional lifeguards and volunteers from South America, Europe and Canada, according to Godofredo (Godo) Vásquez Bohórquez, captain of the Heroic Corps of Lifeguards of Puerto Escondido.
Typical rescues involve neophyte boogie boarders who rent boards without being warned of the dangers of Zicatela and people who swim in the seemingly calm waters of that beach and get caught up in a rip tide. The danger on Playa Principal is for people who don’t know how to swim. A group of up to 12 vacationers may link hands and wade into the water up their chests, then they take another step and fall into a ten-meter deep drop-off. Not a problem if you can swim, but you need to be rescued if you can't.
The lifeguards also protect the beach’s turtles, digging up eggs and putting them into a reserve next to the lifeguard station on Zicatela before they can be harvested by people who illegally sell the eggs. (The vendors call them “limones blancos” (white lemons) and sell them in buckets door to door.) They also try to discourage the illumination of the beaches because it confuses the newly hatched turtles that may head for the light instead of the ocean.
Godo leads the Junior Lifeguard program for boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 17. In November, 66 children signed up for the 3-month course, which involves 3 hours of classes on Saturdays and Sundays. Unlike most programs, Puerto's is entirely free of cost.