Source Documents
chicago p.d. : lifeguard surfboards, 1945 

Chicago Park District : Lifeguard Surfboards, 1945.
Extracts from:
Chicago Park District:
Lifeguard Manual for Beach and Pool Safety.


The Chicago lifeguards used both hollow plywood and balsa boards, the later covered with Hydrocyl, applied in thin sheets approximately 1/32 of an inch thick, and the edges are sealed together with acetone.
It appears that Hydrocyl sheets were used in the 1930s in laminated snow-skis, for example Winner's Hyrdrocyl.
In 1947, Winner were one of the earliest producers of all fibreglass boats in a regular production operation

Winner Boats, Inc. was originally located in West Trenton, NJ and began building wooden boats, skis, and related sports equipment in the early 1930s.
Winner eventually changed to fiberglass boat production in the late 1940s, making wooden skis obsolete in their manufacturing process.

Page 1
Chicago Park District

This guidebook has been compiled purposely to supply information and instruction for the prospective Lifeguard.
It contains data concerning Chicago beaches, pools, and natatoriums as authorizedand endorsed by the Chicago
 Park District, under the supervision of Harry 0'Hare, General Supervisor, Building Maintenance, Golf and Beaches.

Page  51


Different types of surfboards.
Page 53
Every beach is equipped with either balsa wood or hollow mahogany rescue surfboards of various lengths and dimensions. Being of delicate construction, these boards should be handled with great care.
Surfboards should be stored at an angle with air cock loose, so that the water can run out and permit the inside of boards to dry completely.
The air in a surfboard undergoes a change in temperature and pressure when put into cold water.
This should be relieved by quickly opening and closing the air cock after launching.

Page  54

After the board is taken out of water, the cock should be opened immediately, as the change in temperature from the cold water to
atmospheric temperature will cause another variation of air pressure in the board.
The construction of these boards is such that any slight bump may cause an air leak.
When dragging board out of the water over the edge of a pier, rock, or ledge, it should be lifted clear or the seams may crack.
The boards should be sent in to be varnished every two months.
Balsa wood surfboards are covered with Hydrocyl, applied in thin sheets approximately 1/32 of an inch thick, and the edges are
sealed together with acetone.
This coating is easily punctured by rocks, and by rough usage.
If a board is punctured in any way, the director or the Beach and Golf 0ffice should be notified, and repairs will be made immediately before the balsa wood becomes waterlogged.
However,the board must be out of the water and thoroughly dried out for at least two days before applying a repair patch.

Surfboard Rescue
Number of men: One.
Equipment: Surfboard.
Stand-by equipment: First-aid kit and blankets.
Skill necessary: Ability to manipulate a surfboard in either calm or rough seas.
Action: Guard runs through surf carrying the surfboard until he reaches ankle-deep water.
At this point, he throws board into the water

Page  77

and boards it as he would a sled, assuming a prone position.
After contacting victim, guard places him on the board and proceeds to shore.

Supportive action: Shore crew assists the guard in beaching victim, and returns the surfboard to its designated place.

Due to certain advantages the surfboard affords in rescue work, it is valued as one of the most important pieces of rescue apparatus on our bathing beaches.
In order to use the surfboard for the purpose mentioned, it is necessary that the rescuer be a good swimmer, and thoroughly skilled in paddling and maneuvering the board.
Success depends entirely upon the guard's knowledge of and practice in the various methods of rescue to which it is then adapted.

The surfboard can weather broken water where it would be impossible to launch a canoe.
Because it lies low in the water with its upper deck almost flush with the surface, much of the difficulty in lifting and sliding a person aboard is eliminated.
Its buoyancy will support as many as four persons on the deck, or a dozen hanging from the sides.

During swimming hours, the surfboard is kept on the beach,placed in an upright position against the guard tower, or horizontally
on a rack to one side of the tower.
When starting on a rescue, guard seizes board midway along the side and carries it under one arm with fingers gripping lower edge.
The other, arm is stretched forward along the upper edge to control the board and prevent Its swinging.
With the board held in this position the guard enters the water on the run.
When he reaches knee depth, he crouches and drops board forward flat on the water.
Without checking momentum, rescuer flings himself onto the board with one hand still gripping the edge, the other forward on the deck, and with one leg resting on the board.
Actually he is supporting himself at three points with his body slightly above the board.
Meanwhile, the board is sliding swiftly outward over the water, much like a bobsled gliding through the snow.
The guard adjusts his balance quickly, swings to a prone position, and without breaking momentum, starts to paddle.

Meeting large waves as they break requires extreme skill.
When it is apparent that a large wave is going to break, the rescuer may do one of two things: gain momentum as much as possible,then flatten out on board, head down, hands extended forward gripping the edges, or, slip off the board to one side and tilt board on edge to lessen resistance.
As the rescuer nears the victim, he sights along the board and lays his course a few inches to one side of the spot.

Contact is made without slackening speed.
As surfboard rides by, the rescuer reaches out, seizes victim's wrist or arm, and holds it firmly.
The light weight of board and the drag of victim's

Page 78
While paddling, keep eyes on victim.
Use shallow, cupped stroke.
Arm must not dig into water any deeper than forearm, to secure speed and balance for momentum.
Seize victim by wrist and bring to surfboard in proper position for "overthrow".
Now assume' position as shown in illustration of "overthrow", straddling board.
Keep feet sculling to balance board while preparing to place victim on it.
Page 79
Square victim off at board.
Seize victim by thigh, and push his head away - bearing in mind meantime to retain balance by sculling.
The Guard, by using technique explained in "overthrow", can, with little effort, easily slide victim onto board.
Victim is straightened out by pushing his head away and pulling on his thigh.
Now paddle in with same shallow arm stroke used in approach.
Page 80

Rescuer comes to a sitting position astride of board,with his feet and legs in the water to stabilize it.
Victim's arms are then pulled across the board until his chest is against the edge.
The rescuer places one hand on victim's arms and the other on his shoulder, holding him in position to permit breathing
while frustrating any attempt of the victim to climb onto the board.

When victim has regained full consciousness and breath, rescuer seizes the back of his swimming suit and slides him forward until he is in prone position.
Rescuer then lies forward with his chest on victim's legs and paddles to shore.
If the victim has lapsed into unconsciousness, his head may be pillowed on his forearms with his face turned to one side.

Chicago Park District:
Lifeguard Manual for Beach and Pool Safety.


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Geoff Cater (2016) : Chicago Park District : Lifeguard Manual, 1941.