By MADDY VITALE
Rip currents, churned up waters from coastal storms and inexperienced swimmers are keeping Ocean City lifeguards busy this summer.
Ocean City Beach Patrol Chief Mark Jamieson said in an interview Sunday that conditions have been dangerous at times and that bathers need to watch the weather and only swim at guarded beaches.
“We had an active preseason, with the water conditions. Our lifeguards had limited crews and they were very busy Memorial Day weekend,” Jamieson said.
He continued, “We got off to an active start. The water was warm and we had a lot of day trippers. The beaches were very busy. We had 10 (lifeguard) stands open and had to respond five times to unguarded beaches for rescues. And we are still making rescues in unguarded areas.”
Like all other summer seasons, safety is paramount. And so far, this summer, churned up seas and strong rip currents are making the conditions particularly dangerous.
“Weather wise, every year has its own special thing,” he explained. “This year has been a very active season as far as prevalent rip currents and a lot of day trippers coming to the shore. The combination of rip currents and inexperience in the water can be a dangerous combination.”
A number of beaches along the Jersey Coast have had rescues and fatalities this summer. Many of them have been at unguarded beaches.
“If you look this year unfortunately, there have been drownings in other towns in unprotected areas,” he added. “You always need an expert set of eyes and those are found at guarded beaches.”
He said in any emergency people should call 911 for an emergency response to arrive.
Mayor Jay Gillian said in a statement Friday to urge bathers to follow safety precautions, “Please respect the power of the ocean and swim only at beaches protected by the Ocean City Beach Patrol.”
Ninth Street lifeguard Jesse Hickman said in an interview June 12 while working with fellow guard, Colin Osborne, that rip currents are particularly prevalent around the jetty.
“We’re just making sure people stay between the green flags,” Hickman said. “This area can get very dangerous because of the jetty. You get a rip current.”
Jamieson commended the lifeguards for their diligence throughout what is already shaping up to be a busy and dangerous season.
“I think that our staff has continued to do a great job of both creating safer situations for the bathers of Ocean City, and to be willing to put themselves in harm’s way to rescue people who opt to go to unsafe areas that are unguarded. If you decide to come to swim, always swim between the green flags on a guarded beach.”
Jamieson noted that there will be new lifeguards starting soon.
“We are working diligently with new staff to get them trained and on the beaches,” Jamieson said. “We just wish the bathing public a happy and safe summer and we look forward to seeing everyone down at our beaches. I can’t stress enough to swim at guarded beaches and keep an eye on your children.”
For a list of all of Ocean City’s guarded beaches visit ocnj.us/ocbp.