Photo courtesy of usla.org.
Well Trained and Ready to Serve
By Taylor Smith
Garden State residents have a nostalgic fondness for the Jersey Shore.
Those 127 miles of Atlantic coastline extending from Sandy Hook to Cape May bring to mind long, hot, thrill-filled days riding waves, building sandcastles, dining on seafood, enjoying sweet treats, and braving amusement park rides on the boardwalk after dark. A key component of the Jersey Shore experience is the ocean itself, and with that comes Beach Patrol units, which function as a highly elite team of ocean rescue lifeguards.
Each town has its own ocean lifeguard program. For example, since the 1940s, Sea Bright’s beaches have been surveyed and guarded by Sea Bright Ocean Rescue (SBOR). SBOR responds to emergencies covering 4 miles of public ocean. During the summer of 2015, SBOR pulled over 100 people from the Atlantic Ocean and prevented “well over 1,200 dangerous incidents,” as noted on www.seabrightnj.org. These rescues included emergency medical aid, underwater search, and recovery operations.
New Jersey lifeguards are on duty daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Each lifeguard rookie completes over 75 hours of rigorous testing and training to earn a place on the ocean rescue team. Returning lifeguards also undergo 24 hours of training, including physical and medical conditioning, before the start of each new summer season. Each lifeguard is CPR-AED certified and all lifeguards are trained as aquatic medical first responders.
According to Lifeguard Certification NJ, candidates must be able to swim 500 meters in 10 minutes or less, pass an open water test, deep diving tests, a written exam, and a running test, which may be conducted on a track. During the summer season, all on-staff lifeguards are asked to maintain peak physical condition through daily training sessions that usually take place before their 9 a.m. start time.
The full United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) program includes kayak skills, rescue boards, and scanning the surf, along with instruction on how to deal with spinal injuries, heat stroke-related illnesses, missing persons, drug-related incidences, drownings, rip tides, undertows, inclement hurricane conditions, sharks, jellyfish stings, and more. more