Toronto’s ‘Bay­watch’: A look back at our own David Has­sel­hoffs

The glo­ri­ous his­tory of Toronto’s beach watch­ers just in time for the new Bay­watch movie

North York Post - - Contents -

The cast and crew of Bay­watch, in­clud­ing buff star David Has­sel­hoff, have been pa­trolling our TV screens — and, as of this May, our movie the­atres — since 1989, but Toronto’s lifeguards have been keep­ing the city’s wa­ter­ways safe since the 1800s.

Toronto’s shore­lines are pa­trolled by the Toronto Po­lice Life­guard Ser­vice, which traces its roots back to the Com­mis­sion­ers of the Har­bour of Toronto, in­cor­po­rated in 1850. At the time, the com­mis­sion­ers were pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for har­bour safety in the form of har­bour mark­ers, light­ing and life-sav­ing (they pur­chased their first life-sav­ing boat in 1857).

Life-sav­ing ser­vices within the har­bour were left to vol­un­teer crews un­til 1912, when the first paid life-sav­ing crew — jointly funded by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the city — went on duty.

In 1920, the Toronto Life Sav­ing & Po­lice Pa­trol Ser­vice came into be­ing, with a staff of lifeguards, pa­trol of­fi­cers, en­gi­neers, mo­tor­boat op­er­a­tors and other per­son­nel. By the ’50s, con­tin­u­ous har­bour pa­trols were put into ef­fect, and in 1960 a scuba div­ing unit was formed.

In ad­di­tion to hir­ing and train­ing life­guard crews for ar­eas such as Toronto’s beaches, Toronto Is­land and out­door pools near the har­bour, the ser­vice per­formed numer­ous other du­ties, in­clud­ing wa­ter res­cues, search­ing for miss­ing peo­ple, re­triev­ing stolen wa­ter­craft and es­cort­ing dig­ni­taries. The win­ter months were oc­cu­pied by re­pair­ing equip­ment, mon­i­tor­ing ice con­di­tions in the har­bour and per­form­ing res­cues.

Nowa­days, Toronto’s life­guard ser­vices are pro­vided by 93 per­son­nel (80 lifeguards and 13 head lifeguards) who su­per­vise the city’s seven main beaches from mid-May un­til Labour Day.

They might not have the name recog­ni­tion of Dwayne John­son or Zac Efron (both star­ring in the new Bay­watch movie), but Toronto’s hard-work­ing lifeguards are he­roes in their own right and are de­serv­ing of ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Life­guards on the job in the ’50s at the Leuty Life­guard Sta­tion in the Beaches

Life­guards have long been a pres­ence on the beaches of Toronto watch­ing out for swim­mers as well as po­ten­tial boat­ing ac­ci­dents

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