Venice Heritage Museum: Female lifeguards in Venice, 1910’s

While these pictures give you a view of the beach style of that era, it’s generally believed that these images were promotional rather than snapshots of real life. Venice was indeed the place where the City of LA received its first female lifeguard, however that wouldn’t come until decades later.
It wasn’t until Kiane Lokelani Nowell Gray, then known as Kai Nowell (see pics 3 + 4) was assigned to serve at Venice Beach in 1973 that the City of LA got its first female lifeguard. Kai bore the brunt of sexist media attention, men who showed up to the beach to ‘be saved’, and belittlement from her superiors. Venice HQ had no facilities for women, no uniform, no rules…
Not planning to become a trailblazer at the tender age of 21, Kai nevertheless set the precedent for the women that succeeded her. Kai Nowell established herself as an equal contributor in the guards and served for three seasons before moving on to join her family’s business.

Photos courtesy of Venice Heritage Museum

Kai Nowell, 1974.


Check out L.A. County Lifeguards 2019 Magazine Cover!

Los Angeles County lifeguards perform more than 10,000 ocean rescues a year and watch over an estimated 55 million beachgoers. County lifeguards also provide around the clock paramedic services to the residents of Catalina Island.

With nearly 800 team members in the Department’s Lifeguard Division, lifeguards are responsible for protecting 72 miles of coastline, including 31 miles of sandy beaches and Catalina Island.  Interested in becoming a lifeguard?  Details here!

It’s about time Venice had its own museum.  Support Venice Heritage Museum!

The Venice Heritage Museum aims to celebrate our community by sharing stories of Venice heritage + culture. Help them build the FIRST-EVER history museum for Venice, California.   Learn more about the Venice Heritage Museum campus project here.

Fan and follow Venice Heritage Museum for more of Venice History!

Thank You to Our Partners