Diesel Slade
Diesel Slade of Carpinteria Junior Lifeguards outsprints the competition in the “A” Division Beach Flags. Slade took first place. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)
  • Diesel Slade of Carpinteria won the Boys “A” Division Beach Flags competition.
  • Renee Parker of Capitola wins the Girls U19 Beach Flags final against Sophia Arky of L.A. County Junior Lifeguards.
  • A Huntington Beach competitor heads to shore during the Paddle Relay.
  • Long Beach team members make the transfer during the Paddle Relay.
  • Paddlers head toward the beach after rounding buoy during “A” Division Paddle Relay.
  • A Huntington Beach team member protects his face with large dose of sun screen.
  • Junior Lifeguards in Swim Relay tag each other on the beach.
  • Liam Slade of Carpinteria lays out to win flag during Boys U19 Beach Flags event.
  • Family and friends of competitors line Carpinteria City Beach to watch the competition.
  • Vincent Rinaldi, left, and Diesel Slade of Carpinteria stand on the podium after the Beach Flags competition. Slade took first and Rinaldi second.

Carpinteria Junior Lifeguards made a strong showing on their home sand at the California Surf Lifesaving Championships on Friday at Carpinteria City Beach.

Competing against junior guards from beaches and lakes up and down the state, four Carpinteria guards made the finals in the intense Beach Flags event.

Diesel Slade took top honors in the Boys  “A” Flags, beating teammate Vincent Rinaldi. Katelyn Hoidal came in second to Ellen Carter of L.A. County in the Girls “A” Division, and Liam Slade was runner-up to Jeff Hass of Huntington State Beach in the U19 Division.

The beach flags competition consists of athletes lying on their stomachs at the starting line, popping up at the sound of an official’s whistle and racing about 20 yards to grab a flag in the sand. Those who come up empty handed are eliminated. The field is whittled down to the final two.

Liam Slade
Liam Slade plows through the sand to win the flag in the Boys U19 Beach Flags event. Slade finished second in the event. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The action is wild, with athletes often launching themselves to win the flag.

Diesel Slade's quick start allowed him to reach the flag before Rinaldi in a battle of Carpinteria High athletes.

“We were going to battle it out,” Diesel said of the showdown with his teammate.

Hoidal, a Bishop Diego student, continued to advance in the Girls “A” Beach Flags before running into a faster competitor in Carter.

Liam Slade said Hass got inside of him down the stretch and beat him to the flag.

Katelyn Hoidal
Katelyn Hoidal (middle) beats two competitors to the flag. Hoidal advanced to the final. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

A recent graduate of Carpinteria High and a first-year lifeguard at Carpinteria City Beach, Liam Slade said he was mainly focusing on instructing the younger junior guards on Friday, but “I wanted to do flags because I’ve always loved doing them.”

He said it’s been a hectic week setting up for this major event, which drew more than 300 junior guards on Friday and will have more than 200 professional lifeguards competing on Saturday.

“It’s been a lot of hard work preparing for it. I’m expecting to make a lot of money; we’ve worked a couple of 12-hour days.”

Liam Slade enjoys the work.

“Lifeguarding is a great job; there’s a lot of physicality to the job, which I like,” he said. “It opens up careers in firefighting, EMT, things like that, which are possible career options for me.”

He started doing Junior Lifeguards the moment his family moved from Las Vegas when he was 12.

Cooper Creese, a State Parks lifeguard at Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches, said the competition brings out the best in the junior guards.

“We definitely have some good quality athletes that want to come to the competitions and do well,” he said. “It’s cool to get all the kids out here. They’re all prospective lifeguards. 

“That’s what it is all about.”

One of the elite athletes in the competition was Skye Davies of the Santa Cruz Junior Lifeguard Team. She helped her Paddle Relay “A” team take first place by a wide margin over second-place Capitola.

Paddling is Davies’ forte. She finished second in the individual long-distance paddle at last year’s National Championships at age 13 and is headed back to the nationals in Virginia Beach in two weeks. Last week, she won gold in the girls junior paddle sprint at the San Clemente Ocean Festival.

“It’s super fun,” she said of the team and individual paddle events.

The members of the winning Santa Cruz team were Davies, Hunter Oatkey, Austin Vera, Sae Ackerstein, Bodhi Trang and Sean McCallum.

Noozhawk Sports Editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The Santa Cruz Paddle Relay Team
The winning Santa Cruz “A” Paddle Relay team consisted of Bodhi Trang, Sae Ackerstein, Austin Vera, Hunter Oatey, Skye Davies and Sean McCallum. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)
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Barry Punzal, Noozhawk Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.