The chilly temperatures and wind kept most people off South Walton's beaches Saturday. However, if you're willing to brave the elements, nine sections of the county's coastline have watchful eyes to keep you safe. South Walton Fire District lifeguards are now manning their towers.
Even though the seagulls outnumbered the people enjoying the beach, new and returning lifeguards began the program's eighth season in their towers.
The thirty guards have completed their annual training, which includes 84 hours of lessons from surf rescue techniques to conditioning.
While the guards are ready to use these skills, they hope prevention and education efforts targeting beach-goers will ensure they never have to.
Lifeguards say about 80% of the time they enter the water, they're helping someone who's caught in a rip current.
They also say these currents are one of the most deadly things along the panhandle's beaches.
That's why it's important everyone understand and follow the flag warning system.
"The flag system is standardized throughout the nation. Double red is the water is closed to the public, and red is a high hazard. It's kind of like a traffic light. Red is a high hazard, yellow medium and green low, and we have purple for jellyfish," said Chris Lambert, the lifeguard supervisor.
South Walton has nine lifeguard stations spread throughout the county's entire coastline. Two guards man each post between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and they'll be there each day until September.