BODEGA BAY — Seconds went by, and 10-year-old Hudson Fraser was still on his feet, riding a wave at Doran Beach almost into shore.
Then he collapsed into the surf, but rose with a whoop, flexed his biceps a-la-strongman and flashed a thumbs-up.
It had been only a day or two since the Santa Rosa boy managed for the very first time to get his legs under him long enough to stand atop a wave. But that time was short. This was long.
"Awesome!" Fraser yelled, beaming and pumping his fists.
Like his fellow campers at Sonoma County's Junior Lifeguard Surf Camp were learning, a lot can change in a week. One camper, though a strong swimmer, had to master a fear of open water, though by Thursday she was riding the waves repeatedly.
"They really learn everything fast," Camp Director Laurie Paneno said. "They suck it up like a sponge."
Most of those participating in the camp, now in its second year, were new to surfing when they arrived Monday morning and fought their way into rented wet suits. Early instruction centered on reading waves, digging in when paddling out, and figuring out how to balance their weight on a board.
But intermixed with the surf instruction were ocean rescue skills designed to enhance the kids' comfort and confidence in the water as well as lay down basic lifeguard skills in hopes some would pursue it further.
The two activities go hand-in-hand because so many lifeguards end up surfing, and vice versa, "just because of an affinity to the water," said Ryan Branche, aquatic assistant for county parks. "Surfing is just one of those things that water people kind of gravitate toward."
And even though some participants will never take another lifeguard lesson, learning the basics just puts more people out in the world ready to respond in a crisis, he said.
The county first waded into the realm of summer day camps six years ago with its popular beginning and advanced Junior Lifeguard Camps at Spring Lake, for kids 9 and older. Those camps are focused on open water rescue skills as well as CPR and first aid. Hundreds of campers have been through the program, county parks personnel said.
The Doran Beach camp evolved from those programs and from the success of surf lifeguard camps in Southern California and elsewhere, Branche said.
But it's still growing, and, in a county where the most popular camps fill up ahead of time, hasn't met capacity.
"It's a little bit of brave new world for us," Branche said.
Sonoma County campers on Thursday were eager to explain some of the rescue apparatus they'd learned to use, like a tethered foam rubber tube that can be wrapped around a victim to pull them to shore. They also demonstrated "triple flips" used to manipulate a rescue board into position under an unconscious person who is unable to help.
"If they're inactive, then they can't grab onto a tube," said Eva Price, 13, of Sebastopol.
Meghan Wood, 12, of Santa Rosa, conceded "it would be a lot harder if someone were actually drowning," but said she can imagine some day being a lifeguard, like her dad.
"They are learning real life skills that they can continue to use throughout their lives," said David Robinson, aquatics specialist for county parks. "The camps also act as an incredible pool of lifeguard applicants. The demands of open water lifeguarding are much more rigorous than pool lifeguarding, and having the campers before they apply for a position with the county allows us to observe their strengths as well as gives the campers an exclusive look into what they would be doing as a county open water lifeguard."