BY LISSETTE VALENTIN
Anyone can become a lifeguard, but the most likely to pursue a career like this are active members of any government agency or volunteer emergency service, firefighters, civil defence or armed forces.
In Mexico there are many requirements: must be at least 16 years old, be in prime health and physical condition, swim 50 meters in less than 50 seconds with your head out of the water, swim 400 meters in less than 8 minutes without fins, swim 25 meters underwater, bring to the surface three objects placed in the deepest part of the pool and 5 meters apart. A federal, state or municipal health institution must certify that they have adequate vision and hearing, ability and physical stamina to perform the duties of an ocean lifeguard and have satisfactorily completed a first aid course.
The total formal first aid training, including the certified course, should not be less than 21 hours. They must successfully complete a CPR for Professionals course (CPR for adults, one and two rescuers; children and babies; airway obstruction and rescue breathing) and a Water Rescue course of no less than 40 hours.
As you can see, it is not an easy task to obtain a certification. They must also complete the Ocean Lifeguard Course which includes History of Salvage, Lifeguard Health and Safety, Communication Methods, Oceanography, Salvage Techniques, Water Surveillance, Search and Recovery and finally First Aid and CPR.
Athina del Celeste Altamirano Ortega is a native of Los Cabos and of Oaxacan descent. She is an open-water swimming champion (5 to 10 km of swimming non-stop) and at the young age of 22 has proudly become the first certified female lifeguard in Mexico.
After many years of dedication and training under the wing of Nora Toledo, the best open-water swimmer in the country, taking several water rescue seminars and participating in Oceanman Cozumel, an International Open Water competition, representing her State of Baja California Sur, she decided to take the next challenge and become a lifeguard.
Athina said that she always liked to dream big and accomplish extraordinary things. She shared with the Gringo Gazette that a few months ago she began her training as a lifeguard, and that, last January, she started pursuing the certification which in Mexico is called “Provision of assistance services for ocean victims” and assesses candidates’ theoretical and practical knowledge.
This certification is granted by the Secretaria de Educacion Publica (Mexican Ministry of Education) and the Los Cabos Fire Department along with a qualified evaluator.
A few weeks back she was given the news by her evaluator, Luis Enrique Aguilar, that she had been granted the lifeguard certification and was the first Mexican woman to have such recognition. She shared that the Cabo San Lucas firefighter commander Juan Carbajal was instrumental in her decision to become a lifeguard and that she received unconditional support from the entire Fire Department.
“In these moments I feel very grateful, blessed and full of joy. This isn’t only my accomplishment but one of every woman in Mexico and of Los Cabos, I am very thankful to my loving family.”
Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing her much at any of our gorgeous beaches since her plans are to become an evaluator herself and certify the future lifeguards of Los Cabos.
Most recently, she obtained her college degree in Business Administration and along with her family she has become an entrepreneur selling artisan chocolate and ice cream. She is highly involved in several altruistic programs and nonprofit organizations like Huellas Verdes (Green Brigade) and Reciclando Cabo (Cabo Recycle). She participates in the Women’s World Conference and Awards (WWCA), the foremost international gathering of women leaders and Instituto de la Juventud (Young People Institute of Los Cabos).
Athena believes “You have it within your power to make your life a great story, one of significance. Every person can.”
She has without a doubt made everyone in Los Cabos proud and has inspired many local young people and a generation of entrepreneurs and overachievers to come. ,