LIFEGUARD DAVID CHOKACHI RECALLS THE DAY BACK IN 1990 when his looks literally stopped traffic. "My brother and I were working construction, and these three girls cruised by in a car and started whistling," he says. "They were all looking at us, leaning out of the car, and then, boom, they slammed into a telephone truck that was parked there. The girls weren't hurt, but the car was taco'ed." The 5"11" Chokachi wasn't always a sun-kissed sea stud. A 1990 political science graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, he worked for Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) in Washington before answering a newspaper ad for a model. Earlier, Chokachi, 29, had honed his fender-bending physique playing lacrosse and football in his hometown of Plymouth, Mass. "The bottom line," he says, "was if you weren't in shape, you'd get hurt." Today he prefers mountain biking, fly-fishing and camping, insisting he loves "that feeling of just being grunged" after two weeks in the wilderness. But when Baywatch
is shooting and he has to "be really dialed in and looking good," Chokachi, who is single, hits the gym five times a week. "He's the only guy I know who has both horizontal and vertical lines across his abdomen," says the show's executive producer and director Gregory J. Bonann. Fortunately, according to costar Yasmine Bleeth, her castmate's brawn hasn't gone to his brain. "Either David doesn't know how good-looking he is," she says, "or he's in the Robert De Niro league of acting."