Austin Turnbull is a true “waterman.”
He grew up splashing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, beginning to surf at the age of 4.
“I am a waterman. I know how to surf, swim, sail, fish. It is part of me. It is who I am. It is what I grew up doing,” he said.
He said he feels a connection to the beach that runs in his family. That connection evolved into a career protecting lives along the shore. And now he will be protecting lives on Navarre Beach.
Turnbull said his brother inspired him to become a lifeguard.
“I swam all through when I was a kid. My brother was a lifeguard when he turned 16, and I followed him to the beach every single day and sat at the tower with him or surfed or swam,” Turnbull said. “I did the junior lifeguard program in the morning then went to the beach with him every day.”
Sixteen years and several lives saved later, Turnbull has been selected as Navarre Beach’s new beach safety director to supervise the lifeguard program under Navarre Beach Fire Rescue.
Chief Danny Fureigh said Turnbull’s “waterman” nature was part of the reason he was chosen to fill the newly created position. The other reason was his impressive resume.
“He has extensive credentials and experience in the field,” Fureigh said. “We interviewed several people, but he had a passion that actually left us with a new vision of what this position could be. There is no question he was the right choice for the position.”
Turnbull’s resume includes 16 years of ocean lifeguard experience, including stints working on more crowded beaches.
Turnbull’s resume includes training under current United States Lifesaving Association President Peter Davis and certification as a firefighter paramedic.
Training for lifeguards under new standards will begin in February, he said. Turnbull said standards for beginning lifeguards will be stricter under his leadership.
“I want my community to know that when they come to the beach their family is safe and that the best lifeguards in the country are looking out for them,” Turnbull said. “And I know I can deliver that. I am only as good as they are.”
And guards are expected keep improving each year.
“To stay a lifeguard, you have to continue to get better,” Turnbull said.
He will also supervise a junior lifeguard program like the one he participated in all those years ago.
“We bring these kids in, and we show them an entire lifestyle that they might not have been able to be exposed to in the past. I am not just here to create lifeguards,” he said. “I am here to create watermen that can read the water, understand the conditions and even the marine life.”
He also wants the public to know that he is invested in the safety of the beach as much as they are.
“My parents live here. My nephew swims the beach here. My girlfriend swims out here. I want the beach to be as safe for their family as it is for mine,” he said.