Waves, white sand, sunsets and the infinite horizon… the beach always seems to make us dream, doesn’t it? In this setting, where nature unfolds and attracts so many visitors, it should be mentioned that part of Culture moved there gradually. Films and several television series such as “The Guardian” and the inevitable “Bay Watch” – Lifeguard rescuers such as actor Pamela Anderson; in a red bikini, running on the beach, has become very iconic to American lifeguards. In reality, these young workers perform a very serious job that requires attention, enhanced endurance and alertness.
The architectural landmark of this universe is the lifeguard cabin, which adorns the miles of beaches with eccentric monochrome design. Let’s explore how the little multicolored cabins have become a regional emblem along the great seashores of Florida.
By Caroline Hogue
A Little History
Lifeguard cabins as we know them today have become very different from their original invention.
Around 1750, Benjamin Beale had supposedly designed a mobile cabin, pulled by horses, to enable women to access the sea so that they wouldn’t have to appear in a swimsuit. As you can imagine, at the time, it would have been quite scandalous for a woman to travel to the beach in minimal clothing.
The English invention allowed ladies to get changed in privacy, while the horses pulled the cabin to the sea. In the 1920s, as individuals evolved, the use of this “Bathing Machine” was abandoned. Men and women shared the public space of the beach, without the risk of committing any breach of moral code. It was only later that the mobile cabin became sedentary, and became the headquarters for lifeguards.
Serving as landmarks on endless beaches, it became simultaneously true works of art. You will find different types of cabins all around the world, on the beaches of France, US, South Africa and Brazil. This is actually another way to view the beach; sit back and watch the extravagant aesthetics of these little cabins! Bright colors, chipped wood, stripes, unique shapes and sizes, basically any style fits a beach setting.
French photographer Leo Caillard developed an interest in graphic lines and the extraordinary architecture of these lifeguard cabins. The international artist, and his project “Miami Houses”, reflects the aesthetics and variety of these curious objects. Sand, sea and sky making up a generic background highlight the diversity of human constructions.
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Miami used several international artists to restore their cabins. In fact, these cabins have become art structures in an Art Deco aesthetic so characteristic of Miami Beach. More than just used for safety, ocean rescue cabins have even become a tourist attraction, especially for design lovers!
A Red or a Purple Flag?
In 2002, Florida adopts a unified signal system to ensure the safety of all ocean swimmers. Early in the morning, lifeguards and coastguards evaluate the state of its waters for swimming, and install the colored flag, a daily ritual that sits above every lifeguard cabin.
In the best of worlds, a green flag, the finest of flags, means that the water conditions are favorable for swimming. Set up your umbrella and your towels on the beach and go for a swim without any hassle. Even the young ones can benefit from this weather.
A yellow flag invites swimmers to be vigilant and exercise caution. Although the horizon looks calm and the weather is nice, rough currents or even undertows can take you by surprise. Waves may decide to flow in the opposite direction instead of breaking ashore, therefore may be tougher for swimmers to swim towards the dry land.
How to spot these treacherous currents? The water turns quickly from blue to a brownish color, reflecting the bustle of the seabed. Also, if you detect a thin layer of foam carrying debris on the surface of the water, beware of the underwater activity. Finally, if you spot swimmers who seem to swim backwards – a kind of “moonwalk” look – Immediately notify the lifeguard overlooking the beach.
If you accidentally find yourself caught or even trapped in these waves, above all do not panic! Instead of desperately trying to go to the shore, swim parallel to the beach. You will eventually be able to move your body slowly towards the shore. It may take a little longer to do but you’re better safe than sorry!
Moving on to the famous purple flag which reports dangerous marine life. Jellyfish and at times even sharks may be hanging around the low tide area waiting for you… and you may not want to meet them!
Suggestion: be very vigilant when swimming, or skip that day and just work on your lovely tan.
The red flag indicates a raging sea, which can be life threatening. The waves can be several meters high. These waves will attract the more adventurous surfers, but it is better to stay safe on the mainland.
If you ever see a double red flag, this means that the water is closed to the public, swimming is forbidden. If this happens, which rarely does in Florida, take the opportunity to go to the museum or enjoy the movies.
If the shores off a deserted island make you dreamy, the beaches that we regularly encounter reveal a different reality. The presence of a community, our lifeguard rescuers, influence our environment.
Their cabins, their flag signals in addition to the natural landscape makes us appreciate and learn the colors and everything that is behind the meaning of a cabin and its beautiful beaches!