By MADDY VITALE
With many people working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students doing online courses and the shoulder season nearing, Ocean City is offering guarded beaches well into the end of September.
Vacationers and residents will be able to spend weeks longer on the beaches and in the surf, with the assurance that the Ocean City Beach Patrol lifeguards will be on duty to protect them.
“I think, especially this year, to extend the summer as far as we can because of the current climate, with online schooling and hybrid learning, and people working remotely, the beach has become a good place for a new office space,” said Beach Patrol Chief Mark Jamison in an interview Sunday. “We anticipate a busier than normal post-Labor Day here. We are excited to have the opportunity to continue to keep our beautiful beaches guarded.”
On Sunday morning, beachgoers began to fill up the beaches at Eighth Street and Ninth Street. Many guards who typically go back to college in August or early September were available to work due to their schools going all-remote for the beginning of the fall semester.
Veteran lifeguards Ellis Kirk, 23, of Ocean City, and Madeleine McCabe, 23, of Linwood, stood guard at the Eighth Street beach.
Kirk, a Stockton University chemistry student entering his senior year, said he was staying through September. McCabe, a college graduate, said she would also stay on.
“The preseason in May and June were more like July,” Kirk said. “I think we are facing a pretty interesting post season. It makes our jobs so much more real. Not only the volume of people but hurricane season is coming, which means big waves and heavy swells.”
After Labor Day weekend, nine beaches will be guarded through Sept. 20 and six until Sept. 27. Some beaches that will remain guarded until Sept. 27 include 8th, 9th, 12th, and 34th streets, all popular areas with tourists.
Beach Patrol Chief Jamison emphasized that, with hurricane season approaching, it is vital to keep the throngs of beachgoers safe after the holiday weekend.
Over Labor Day weekend, Jamison noted that the whole island has been bustling. He predicted that trend would remain through September.
“Yesterday it was packed inlet to inlet by 1 p.m.,” Jamison said. “That is all the more reason why it is so important to extend the guards.”
Kathy Sykes, assistant to Ocean City High School Principal Dr. Matt Jamieson, spent the morning with her family on Ninth Street beach.
“There is definitely a need for guarded beaches after Labor Day,” Sykes said. “There will be a lot of people who want to be outdoors.”
Veteran lifeguards Tom Cusack, 23, of Beesleys Point, and Andrew Gallagher, 23, of Ocean City, protected the Ninth Street beach Sunday.
They watched to make sure swimmers stayed between the green flags.
Cusack called out to a young boy to come in closer to the shoreline.
“With COVID-19, a lot more people are in town because so many people are working from home,” said Cusack, who is in his last year at West Chester University, which is all remote for the fall.
Cusack added, “We will see more people than in a long time. That, coupled with hurricane season, which is predicted to be bad this year, will make it more important to have guards.”
In addition to guarded beaches, there will be rapid response teams on hand to assist with emergencies. Visit www.ocnj.us/ocbp for more information.