Rob Crompton was exposed to critical lifesaving skills at an incredibly young age with the Santa Cruz City Junior Lifeguard Program. This transitioned into Lifeguarding, and eventually Firefighting. On his days off, he chases mountainous tubes at heavy water breaks such as Ocean Beach and Moss Landing. Crompton is proud to serve his community while fostering life-long friendships.

Crompton was born in Santa Cruz, and like many of his peers, enrolled in the Junior Lifeguard program at age 7. A summer program for youth, the Junior Lifeguards, gave grommets like Crompton the opportunity to hang out at the beach all Summer, while staying fit and learning valuable life-saving skills. As he began learning how to surf, the two complemented each other; the more he trained, the more comfortable he became in the water, and vice versa.


Not every Junior Lifeguard goes on to be a city Lifeguard, but it’s likely that every city Lifeguard was a Junior Lifeguard at one time. Crompton came up with a crew who all grew up in the water, and many of these friends joined him in becoming a city Lifeguard. This is where the serious life-saving training came to use, as well as time spent surfing.

Crompton graduated from High School and continued to lifeguard. He would also, at this point, developed a hunger to surf waves of consequences and the skill to do so frequently, getting to know wooly waves like Middle Peak, Scott’s Creek, and Moss Landing, to name a few. During serious sessions such as these, Crompton fell back on his training during sketchy situations.

“Spending time in an environment you’re not comfortable in and eventually becoming comfortable gives you awareness of your situation–so you practice and train to make the best decision possible. My lifeguarding gave me these skills that I’ve been able to transfer into surfing bigger waves,” explains Crompton.

After taking some courses at Cabrillo, Crompton found himself lost at sea, unsure of what direction to take his life. What he did know is that he had invaluable lifesaving and first responder experience. The next level would be EMT/Paramedic school, and eventually, firefighter. A long road to travel, surely, yet one that would allow him to continue saving lives while sneaking in surfs when the waves pick up.


“Eventually,” explains the 38 year-old goofy-foot, “ I got all that you need from lifeguarding just watching all these firefighters going to the same water rescues that I was going to … I just wanted to do that. I saw the guys working together as a team and wanted to be that for my career”.

After a lot of hard work, he was able to land a dream position at the Soquel Fire station, working alongside some lifelong friends. Crompton fused his lifeguarding with this new position, training for, and becoming a part of, the “ocean water safety crew”. He considers himself lucky to have some of his best friends on his team, with the ability to go from Station hi-jinks to facing deadly situations as a cohesive and concentrated team.

Discussing the heavier aspects of the job, Crompton admits that the death and devastation he and his fellow firemen witness can be taxing, both emotionally and mentally. That’s when he falls back on his training and keeps his cool, taking the steps he needs to react to any situation with clarity and confidence. The hardest calls are the ones that involve friends and family, where emotion threatens doing one’s job.

“It’s really tough when it gets personal. If you have a connection with that person, and you’ve known their family members for a long time, you really have to go inside and see what’s going on and talk about the situation with them. For us to deal with the trauma, there are outlets– we have a critical response stress team that will come out and help us. It definitely takes work to get through that stuff. Seeing people die is a real thing”.

Crompton and his beautiful wife Stephanie gave birth to their daughter, Uma, last year. He is proud of the road he has taken and still loves surfing big waves. He’s also proud of his many fellow Junior Lifeguard alumni for also pursuing careers in lifesaving.

“One call, someone was drowning in the Harbor. My buddy, Blake Anderson, was Harbor Security and was already on the scene performing chest compressions when I arrived. Then, when I dropped the man off at the hospital and Brook Goddard, another friend,  was the doctor who cared for him. We all chose lifesaving as a career. It is really cool to see it come full circle like that,” explains Crompton.

Crompton has some advice for aspiring watermen/women who want to surf a lot, while also putting their life-saving skills to use for a career.

“I just want to tell kids who aren’t sure of what they want to be when they grow up but know that they want to surf as much as possible, firefighting is a great match. You might not be the professional surfer with all the sponsorships, but growing up and taking care of yourself by eating healthy and doing good in school; all those things are crucial and can lead you to a clear like I have”.

“If we don’t know the people personally, it can just become our work, we go in, do our thing, help the people out, and hand the patient off to the hospital. This routine begins to get comfortable—you’re almost numb. It can wear on you even when you don’t know about it. Therapists who help firefighters call it, “wearing a backpack of rocks”. You don’t think about it but all those heavy calls that you go to is like throwing another rock in your backpack and eventually that backpack’s going to wear you down.”