‘Baywatch’: Iconic Slo-Mo Lifeguard Runs Were Inspired By Summer Olympics

Even if you’ve never seen an episode of Baywatch, you know what the tv show is known for. Red bathing suits. David Hasselhoff. And of course, impossibly gorgeous people running across the beach in slow motion. But where did the show’s iconic slow-mo lifeguard run originate? Here’s the story of the show, the trademark usage of slow-mo, and what inspired the creative team behind Baywatch to include it. 

From L-R: Traci Bingham, Donna D'Errico, Yasmine Bleeth, Gena Lee Nolin And Nancy Valen
From L-R: Traci Bingham, Donna D’Errico, Yasmine Bleeth, Gena Lee Nolin And Nancy Valen | Getty Images

According to IMDb, Baywatch starred Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. One of the show’s hallmarks was its scantily clad costars with near-perfect bodies running across the beach to save the day.

The show ran from 1989-2000. It featured a variety of subplots throughout its 11-year run. Sometimes, the crew inexplicably tried to solve a crime. Other times, they attempted to manage issues from their own lives. 

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The show wouldn’t be classified as Shakespeare, but it certainly had a significant fan base. Any show lasting more than ten years would have to. It’s not rocket science to figure out what made it popular.

The show’s actors were all beautiful people not wearing a lot of clothing. The show definitely capitalized on this and took advantage of it. Anderson was able to leverage her run on the show into a career as a household name. She’s still famous to this day, largely due to her performance on Baywatch. 

‘Baywatch’ became known for its slow-motion running

Over the years, Baywatch was lampooned about as much as any show. The show could be classified under the category of “so bad it’s good.” Plots and dialogue were simple.

The show provided viewers the ability to watch good-looking people do incredible things against the backdrop of a beautiful beach. Having a show set at the beach was like giving the audience a virtual vacation. 

To get an idea of the show’s place in the larger cultural landscape, just look at the 2017 movie version starring Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson. The comedy film was something between a straight adaptation and a spoof of the show. The screenplay kept its tongue firmly in cheek and poked gentle fun at the show’s general airheadedness.

Part of the show’s charm was how much it leaned into its simplicity. One feature of the show that played into this was the scenes in which the lifeguards on the show ran captured in slow-mo. This was shown during the opening credits and sometimes during the actual show itself. But where did this come from? 

‘Baywatch’s’ creators came up with the slow-mo running idea after watching a big sporting event

If you’ve ever seen Baywatch, you know the shot of a lifeguard running in slow-mo. It became one of the show’s most enduring aspects, often parodied and imitated, but never quite duplicated as successfully anywhere else. The idea to incorporate this came after one of the show’s creators watched the Olympics. 

According to Mental Floss, one of the show’s creators had a producing partner who had finished working on the 1988 Summer Olympics and had footage of sprinters captured at much slower frame rates while competing in the 100m dash. The look of the shots appealed to the Baywatch team, and they got rolled into the show. 

Of course, Hasselhoff had a different explanation. To hear the series star tell it, the slow-mo shots were included to add time to shows that were running short on content. This enabled the production team to save money by not having to shoot more footage.