This is part of Santa Monica Beach Stories, www.smbeachstories.com. Below is the text from the plaque:
Ocean swimming was not a popular recreational activity in the early 1900s and as a result the first
lifeguards worked in the plunges (indoor salt water pools) preferred by vacationers. As ocean swimming
grew in popularity, avid surfers George Freeth and George Washington Watkins organized a volunteer life-saving
corps. Later Freeth would revolutionize modern lifeguarding techniques. Volunteer lifeguards continued to patrol the beach
until the early 1930s when the city funded the first professional lifeguarding service.
Preserve America: Explore and Enjoy our Heritage. Santa Monica Beach Stories is made possible in part by a Preserve America grant administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Photo for the work is courtesy of the Peterson Family Trust and the Surfing Heritage Foundation.
Photo below taken by Ruth Wallach, 2013.