Legendary Newport Beach Lifeguard Buddy Belshe Passes

Legendary Newport Beach Lifeguard Buddy Belshe Passes

Retired Newport Beach Lifeguard Captain Buddy Belshe passed away this week from complications to Alzheimer’s Disease. A veteran Newport Beach (California) Lifeguard for 47 years, he started his ocean career by working 10 years in Huntington Beach.

Belshe came from a family of watermen and women with legendary longevity. His father was the first full-time professional lifeguard for the City of Huntington Beach (California) and his mother taught thousands of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach children how to swim over 50 years as an aquatics instructor.

An ALl-American high school and collegiate swimmer, he placed 9th at the 1956 USA Swimming Olympic trials in the 1500m freestyle and set numerous records and won several U.S. Masters Swimming national championships over 50 years of Masters swimming.

In 1950 at age of 16, he started life guarding in Huntington Beach and continued life guarding in Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar until 2007 when he retired due to an on-duty injury. He was part of the founding fathers of the U.S. Lifesaving Association and was the longest active member of the organization. He also served as a training officer for the World Lifesaving and National Surf Lifesaving Association, traveling to South Africa, Ireland, England, and Wales on various tours of duty.

His legacy is multi-fold:

He founded the Newport Beach Pier-to-Pier Swim in 1976 for the nation’s Bicentennial that continues to this day. People refer to it as Buddy’s Swim (see below).

He swam the La Jolla Rough Water Swim every year from 1947 to 2005 when he could not make it due to injury.

Buddy’s Buoy, a fixture for forty years located off of the Newport Pier in front of the Newport Lifeguard Headquarters is named for the native Southern Californian.

He was considered the best pure lifeguard on the force with a unique ability to concentrate on water observation for long periods of time, quickly identify rescues and respond early to potential victims, frequently before they realize that they are in distress.

When he retired as an ocean lifeguard, he worked as a lifeguard for the Blue Buoy Swim School in Tustin between 2007 and 2010. He stated, “I don’t know when I will retire. I still have a few more years left in me.”

From 1934 to 2012, Buddy Belshe’s life was full of good years.



A memorial service will be held on January 5th 2013 at 10:30 am on the sand at Big Corona Beach in Corona Del Mar, California.

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