Q&A with Roth Fin, Senior Lifeguard at Harrison Recreation Department’s Bernie Guagnini Brentwood Pool

Features Editor Laurie Yarnell chats with Roth Fin, senior lifeguard at the Harrison Recreation Department’s Bernie Guagnini Brentwood Pool, about swimming, sunburns, and SpongeBob SquarePants.



Photo by John Rizzo

So, is being a lifeguard a chick magnet?
Not at this pool, because it’s mainly older people and babies.

How long have you been a lifeguard here?
This is my twelfth summer season. I started as a freshman in high school—my school’s swim coach was head of this pool—and, seven years ago, I was promoted to head lifeguard.

How do you stay alert and keep your mind from wandering?
I keep a running count in my head of how many people are in the different sections of the pool, and I try and see whose friend is whose, so if someone goes missing, I know which way to start looking first.

What’s your favorite thing to get from the snack bar?
SpongeBob SquarePants ice cream. I like that the eyeballs are made of bubblegum.

How many times have you actually had to jump into the pool?
Four.

Tell us about your first save.
My first year, there was a little boy of four or five who couldn’t swim, who started wandering into the deeper part. I saw him jump in and come back up a few times and then, all of a sudden, he didn’t come back up. I blew the whistle and jumped in and carried him over to the side. I was nervous, but he was okay.

And your most memorable save?
A teenage girl popped her shoulder out while she was swimming. I was on the deck and someone blew the whistle. The lifeguard on duty jumped in and was having trouble getting the girl out, so I jumped in too. She was in too much pain to be lifted or to walk over to the stairs, so I sat her on my knee in the shallow end until 911 came.

What happens if someone has an, ahem, accident in the pool?
We have to kick the people out for one hour, remove the matter, and adjust the chemicals. Fortunately, it’s only happened about three or four times in all the time I’ve worked here.

How do you stay in good physical shape?
I have a brown belt in judo, and I help teach it at WCC and Pace.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Some people complain, like that there aren’t enough chairs, and some kids run around the deck and don’t listen. Also, the sun can get really hot. You have to keep drinking water all the time.

What sunscreen do you use?
My girlfriend is a pharmacist, and she told me about Blue Lizard—it’s a thick cream in a tube that gives really good coverage. I use SPF 30-plus—though sometimes I forget to put it on.

What’s the stickiest non-emergency situation you have to handle on duty?
Sometimes, girls wear bikinis that are too small and I have to tell them that, the next time they come, they have to wear something a little less revealing.

What’s the most fun you’ve had while working?
Last fall, they did something new where the pool was opened to dogs on a few set days right before it was drained and closed for the season. There were about thirty people and dogs and everyone had a great time. The dogs were very well behaved—and none of them had any accidents in the pool.