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Ocean lifeguards are constantly engaged in beach risk analysis, required to efficiently evaluate a variety of environmental and other factors quickly in order to triage and prioritize who needs help. Teaching these skills is a challenge for introductory training programs. We sought to improve new lifeguards’ understanding of the interaction of various risk components in the beach environment and aid decision-making related to when a lifeguard should intervene in a situation. We developed a two-part cognitive aid for introductory ocean lifeguard education depicting individual and interacting elements of a beach goer’s risk of drowning or injury and the process by which that risk increases with associated lifeguard interventions on a continuum from low risk and no distress to drowning. This new cognitive aid represented an advancement in the presentation of complex material in introductory training programs for those involved in aquatic rescue.