Surf and Turf
On land and on the water, this local park ranger loves his job.
XAVIER “ZAVE” AGNEW has been keeping people safe for 30 years. A Stinson Beach kid who surfed his way through high school, he became a teenage lifeguard at his hometown beach and today, as part of his job as a supervisory ranger, manages the National Park Service rangers who patrol the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and still oversees Stinson’s lifeguard squad. What makes a good lifeguard? A lot of ocean experience. For me that just came from surfing and hanging out at the beach. That’s what we did in high school — go surf and hang out. With that you learn your water skills, like a sailor. You’re a Marin guy? I am. I lived in Stinson until junior high, then moved to Bolinas and then back to Stinson. I went to Bolinas-Stinson School — to every grade they had — and then to Tam High from 1980 to ’84. Always lived in West Marin? Except for when I went to UC Santa Barbara and after college when I was supervisory lifeguard. I spent those winters traveling. I’d surf in Indonesia. I did it every winter from 1992 to 2000, when my daughter was born. Sounds sweet. It was. Still surf? I do, mostly at Stinson and Bolinas. Those are my spots. What’s the job like? I became a ranger in 2003. Now I’m more of a supervisor and it’s mostly administrative work — time sheets, scheduling, juggling all those things. I still go out and do the fun stuff, though, like cliff rescues and water rescues. Cliff rescues? The Headlands are just notorious for the cliffs. People are always trying to find shortcuts or that special spot and they get somewhere where they can’t be and they lock up. Panic? Yes, they’re there with their sandals or their flip-flops and weren’t expecting to be on a cliff face. Boat rescues? This time of year there’s a lot. Summer’s almost over and people are taking out old Cindy Lou for the first time and they run adrift off Rocky Point or Duxbury Reef. You’re armed? Law enforcement is part of our job. What’s the biggest challenge there? The worse behavior on the Marin side is the drinking, the alcohol consumption at the beaches. And, of course, traffic. What do you like about your job? There’s so much, but mostly it’s being out there with the people. It’s working on those busy days at Stinson or up here at Battery Spencer and hearing people say, “Hey, thanks for being here today.” What kind of stuff do they ask you? No. 1 is “How do I get your job?” No. 2 is probably “How do I get to Muir Woods?”