Paying Tribute: Ocean Lifeguard Paul Gudmundsson

By October 28, 2016LACoFD News
Ocean Lifeguard Paul Gudmundsson. Photo courtesy Shaun Gudmundsson.
Paul Gudmundsson, left, grew up on the beach in the South Bay. Photo courtesy Shaun Gudmundsson.

Paul Gudmundsson, left, grew up on the beach in the South Bay. Photo courtesy Shaun Gudmundsson.

by Nicole Mooradian

For Ocean Lifeguard Paul Gudmundsson, lifeguarding wasn’t just a job—it was a lifestyle.

Paul, who spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Hermosa Beach, passed away Oct. 9. He was 62.

A lifelong swimmer and surfer, Paul’s first exposure to the Los Angeles County lifeguards was as a Junior Lifeguard, back when the program was open only to boys. In 1972, he passed the swim test and became a Los Angeles County recurrent lifeguard. Later in his career, he assisted with the Junior Lifeguard program for many years.

Ocean Lifeguard Paul Gudmundsson. Photo courtesy Shaun Gudmundsson.

Ocean Lifeguard Paul Gudmundsson. Photo courtesy Shaun Gudmundsson.

He competed in surfing and swimming; his name appears on the Taplin Bell four times—in 1974, 1976 and 1980 as a paddler, and in 1977 as a rower.

His love for the lifestyle inspired his children, Alexandra and Shaun, to become recurrent ocean lifeguards, making the job a family affair.

“It felt like a real family experience,” Shaun said. “I got to work next to him a lot of times—my sister, too. In Hermosa, a couple times we’d have towers close to each other. Those are some of the best memories I’ve had at work.”

As a whole, the Gudmundssons are a “very beach-oriented family,” Shaun said. Both children grew up swimming, and many family vacations involved the ocean in some way, whether they were visiting New Zealand or surfing in France.

“He loved the food (in France),” Shaun said. “He was always down to try new types of food (and) try different coffee shops when we’d go traveling.”

“He was always in the ocean,” longtime family friend Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Lidia Barillas recalled. “We would see him swimming or running or playing in the ocean with his wife.”

When he wasn’t working on the beach or spending time with his family, Paul was a pharmacist.

“(He was) always open for calls about advice about medications that were prescribed,” Shaun said, recalling his father’s love for teaching and learning. “He was like an encyclopedia.”

“Paul was definitely one of those people that the first thing they say about him is that he was very kind,” Barillas. “At the end of a recheck, (Paul) would always come and say, ‘Thank you,’” to the coordinators.

“He was always open to listening,” Shaun said. “and he always had good advice, and he was always thinking about other people.”

In all, “he just loved the beach and the whole lifeguard family,” Shaun said.

Paul is survived by his wife, Marilyn; his children, Shaun and Alexandra; his son-in-law, Ocean Lifeguard Gavin Horlick; and granddaughter, Genevieve.

A memorial service for Paul will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Southern Section Headquarters, located at 1201 The Strand in Hermosa Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Junior Lifeguard Trust Fund. Checks may be mailed to:

LACOLA Trust Fund
524 Garnet Street, #B
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Checks should be made payable to LACoLA Trust Fund with “In Memory of Paul Gudmundsson” written on the memo line.