Seaside History

Knights of Summer: Seaside’s Lifeguarding Tradition

June 19, 2013 | by Nate Burke

The first day of summer is upon us and our local lifeguard team is out in force. Lifeguarding in Seaside has a rich tradition of service, where athletic men and women have spent their summers sprinting through the sands and surveying the horizon with eyes peeled for trouble. In fact, lifeguards have been a part of our coastal town for almost 100 years. The first lifeguards started patrolling during Seaside summers around 1915. In 1923 the first lifeguard station was constructed on the beach just southwest of the Turnaround. The station acted as a useful observation tower and graced Seaside’s beach with an enduring reputation for fun and safety. With the first summer lifeguard team and accompanying observation tower, Seaside became the most vigilantly guarded beach in Oregon. With this reputation for vibrant beach culture, Seaside drew talented local lifeguards and also pulled from the ranks of other coastal cities from across the country. For those who wanted to spend a memorable summer in Seaside, three months on the North Oregon Coast was an exciting prospect.

The beach is a community in its own right and has its very own social circles, so it’s only proper that the lifeguards act as a nucleus for the sun-loving set. Willy Paul and Bill Palmer (shown here in a photo from 1933) were two popular and gregarious lifeguards who grew up in Seaside; both were outstanding athletes and quickly became the most trusted men on the beach.  Practically glowing with friendliness, health, and ability, Willy and Bill were some of the earliest incarnations of the local lifeguard tradition.

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