Buddy Belshe (1934-2012) was a legendary Newport Beach lifeguard and waterman who worked 57 years for both Huntington Beach and Newport Beach over the course of his career. He also founded the Newport Pier-2-Pier Swim in 1976.
Belshe was a Huntington Beach High School All-American Swimmer 1952 and 1953 as well as the Helms Foundation Outstanding Junior Swimmer of the Year in 1952. He was the Orange Coast College Athlete of the Year in 1955 and All-America Swimmer in 1954 and 1955. He was also a University of Denver Collegiate All-America Swimmer and placed 9th at the 1956 USA Olympic trials in the 1500 meter freestyle. He was 13 times selected as a collegiate All America swimmer. A graduate of California State University, Long Beach in 1959, he set many records and won numerous U.S. Masters Swimming National Championships over 50 years of Masters swimming.
In 1950 at the age of 16, he started lifeguarding for the City of Huntington Beach. In 1960, he was hired by the City of Newport Beach as a full-time Division Supervisor and retired as the Operations Captain in 1987. He returned as a seasonal lifeguard in 1988, working an additional 19 summers in Corona del Mar until 2007 when he retired from the City due to on-duty injury.
Belshe was involved with starting the USLA as part of the founding fathers. He also served as a Vice-President, Secretary and the longest active member of the organization. He was also an International Training Officer for World Lifesaving and National Surf Lifesaving Association and attended the First World Lifesaving Congress in Durban, South Africa in 1974 and was part of the host committee for the Second World Lifesaving Congress in Newport Beach, California in 1978. He also traveled to Ireland, England, and Wales on a U.S. Lifeguard Goodwill tour in 1979
Ocean Swimming Career
He swam the La Jolla Rough Water Swim every year from 1947 to 2005 when he could not make it due to injury (the swim was cancelled twice; once for a shark warning and once because of a polio outbreak in the area).
Buddy’s Buoy is a fixture for 40 years located off of the Newport Pier in front of the Newport Lifeguard Headquarters is named for Buddy.