San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tamarindo Baywatch Afloat Again

Playa Tamarindo, on the northwestern Guanacaste coast, has lifeguards again after a funding shortfall last August washed up the beach’s lifesaving program.

Three trained lifeguards keep watch six days a week, eight hours a day, thanks to a campaign by residents and businesses.

Spearheaded by sisters-in-law Ann and Cheryl McKillican, and supported by the Tamarindo Improvement Association, the campaign has received pledges for $2,985 a month, according to a letter from the McKillicans sent to donors.

The sum covers wages for the three lifeguards and,with the help of a May 31 fundraising event planned at Hotel Pasatiempo, campaigners hope to add a fourth soon.

Tamarindo doesn’t have a Red Cross, which handles beach safety in other parts of the country. Residents say lifeguards there are essential.

“A service like this is vital for a beach where between 100 and 150 surfers come every day,” said Giancarlo Pucci, of the Playa Tamarindo Tourism Commission, according to a press release from the commission’s parent group, the Guanacaste Tourism Chamber (CATURGUA).

The lifeguards pulled some 20 people out of Tamarindo’s treacherous rip current in one day, according to Ann McKillican, and no drownings have occurred since guards took to the sand just in time for the Easter holiday.

Tamarindo’s reputation for fun in the sun has been marred by recent drownings, including that of Matt McParland, 42. His accident in January may have been prevented if lifeguards and adequate lifesaving equipment had been at hand (TT, Jan. 18).

Hotel Tamarindo Diria, in front of which the U.S. chiropractor took his fatal swim, pitched in with a fund-raising event and restoration of its once disused watchtower, McKillican said.

U.S. chiropractors also donated to the Matt McParland Fund (TT, Jan. 25) to buy equipment including waterproof binoculars, according to the campaign letter.

Local shops and residents chipped in too, providing lifeguards with T-shirts and rescue boards. Air horns and flags, which will hang to warn of a particularly heavy current, are on the way.

Donating businesses also include Witches Rock Surf, Hotel Pasatiempo, Hotel Pueblo Dorado, Capitán Suizo, Best Western Vista Villas, Hotel Cala Luna, Jardín del Edén, Villa Alegre, Pacific Life Health Services, Banana Surf, Surfrider / Surf Club Sports Bar, Laguna del Cocodrilo, Iguana Surf, Agua Discotheque and Luna Llena Hotel.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Ann McKillican, “but very rewarding. It’s nice to see so much support from the town.”

Meanwhile, beach safety is a growing concern along much of the nation’s shoreline. The southern Pacific Playa Dominical is fighting to keep its lifeguard program afloat. Business owners and residents are organizing to muster up the cash and personnel. So far the fund has swelled to $12,000, according to resident Bob Clarke, but more is needed to hire and equip two guards to protect swimmers from the beach’s sometimes punishing tide.


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