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O.C. lifeguards star in Weather Channel show
Huntington Beach lifeguard Tony Morelli was surfing just south of the Huntington Beach Pier when he noticed a fully dressed man hanging onto one of the pier pilings.
The fisherman had jumped off the pier and into big, 10-foot swells that were slamming the barnacle-covered pilings. Morelli, a rookie who had just joined the Huntington Beach City Lifeguards as a seasonal guard, jumped into action to save the man's life.
The dramatic rescue was caught on film and will be aired this season on the reality show "Lifeguard! Southern California," which premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday on the Weather Channel.
The show highlights the drama on the coastline that happens each busy summer season, with filming happening in several Orange County beaches like Huntington State and City, as well as Newport Beach.
It is the second season for the show, but the first year the California State Parks signed on to be part of the show.
"The TV show does an excellent job showcasing the State Park Lifeguards' professionalism and dedication to saving the lives of our park visitors," said Brian Ketterer, the Orange Coast District Superintendent for California State Parks, in a press release. "This program brings real-life stories to the screen, giving everyone an insight into the difficult, but rewarding job."
The first show kicks off with two back-to-back episodes, and then one new half-hour episode each following week. The first episode up is "Chaos at the Cove", which features a mass rescue in La Jolla Cove, a boat colliding with a personal watercraft in Mission Bay, lifeguard tryouts at Huntington Beach and the Huntington Beach rescue by Morelli and others on a rescue boat.
Huntington Beach Lifeguard Lt. Mike Baumgartner said doing rescues while a film crew is near can have its challenges. The city lifeguards are no strangers to the spotlight, with the show "Ocean Force" focusing on the stretch of Huntington for two seasons. This latest filming was easier, because the film crew only followed for about 15 days rather than all summer long.
"Our staff has gotten used to it, but it's difficult to have a film crew watching what you do while you are working – you can never let your guard down," Baumgartner said.
Also, the public may react differently if they have cameras around – by overdramatizing their injuries or refusing treatment because they don't want to be filmed, he said.
But the public education aspect is a positive for sharing what lifeguarding is all about, especially for people who come from areas that are not beach towns.
"It's good from our standpoint to educate the public on what we do," he said.
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