It all started in 1930!
Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service, Inc (VBLS) is the largest and oldest beach lifesaving service in the Commonwealth of Virginia. VBLS has been providing lifeguard services at the Virginia Beach oceanfront for 90 Years!
VBLS traces its roots back to 1930 when Graham K. ‘Dusty’ Hinnant was invited to serve as a lifeguard for a hotel on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. The business grew into a lifesaving and beach rental tradition at the oceanfront and the reins were passed to Dusty’s son Kent. Dusty and Kent spent the majority of their lives mentoring a couple thousand young lifesavers and hold a distinct place in the proud history of Virginia Beach.
In 1987, VBLS, Inc. was officially formed in a partnership between Kent (Ocean Rescue Service, Inc.) and Eddie Garcia (Virginia Beach Patrol, Inc.). The organization took over lifeguard services for all of the Resort Beach and Croatan. In 1990, Eddie passed his shares to his daughter Angela Garcia-Mozer, who at the time was the General manager for Ocean Breeze Waterpark employing approximately 75 lifeguards seasonally.
While sadly both Kent Hinnant and Eddie Garcia passed in the spring of 2019; VBLS carries on and provides the visitors and citizens of Virginia Beach with the highest level of surf lifesaving protection.
In January 2020, the Hinnant family sold their shares of VBLS, and Russell Lyons, a local leader in the hotel and hospitality industry, became co-owner of VBLS with Angela.
Tom Gill, President and Chief
VBLS operations is led by Chief Tom Gill who enters his 30th season with VBLS, he was appointed operations leader in 2002. An EMT-B since 1992, Chief Gill was born and raised in Virginia Beach. He is a retired Life Member of the Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad and was recently elected Vice President of the United States Lifesaving Association, America’s premiere association of surf lifesaving professionals.
Gary Felch, Deputy Chief
Deputy Chief Felch plays an integral role in all aspects of VBLS including hiring, scheduling and most importantly daily operations. Gary started his VBLS career in 1990, achieved his first EMT Certification in 1992 and has risen through the ranks based on an uncompromising work ethic combined with a passion for surf rescue. Chief Felch is also an educator at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach.
Guy Wheatley, Deputy Chief
Chief Wheatley earned his 40 Year Hinnant Legacy Award in 2019. Chief Wheatley contributes to VBLS Operations by keeping the equipment in perfect working order and ensuring those that use it do so safely. A Master Firefighter with over three decades of service to the VB Fire Department, Guy is a positive force whose energy and optimism motivate the guards on a daily basis.