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THE BIZARRE | TOWER AIR | SO SOCAL

Baywatch Beacons

June 07, 1998|Jim Heimann

Beach-goers take them for granted. The babes overshadow them on TV shows. The lifeguard towers that rim the coast serve ostensibly as observation platforms to ensure public safety, yet these lone sentinels in the sand remain an indigenous and indelible icon of our landscape. Only a few were in place at the turn of the century; today, 156 stand in L.A. County alone. Individual beach communities traditionally designed and constructed them, but many wood towers are now being replaced with the more generic blue "Surveyor" model that features lightweight fiberglass and extended roofs to deflect UV rays. The L.A. County Lifeguard Operations also has a replacement prototype for weathered towers that is a more traditional wooden version. Evoking the solitude and strength of the guard lifestyle, the towers are a reassuring beacon of security.

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