By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Beach Patrol has been hosting its first ever “Beach Safety Week” and it has been a hit so far.
Several of the events are based at the beach patrol headquarters at 12th Street and the Boardwalk. Organizers say the events are really giving the public an inside look at the duties that go along with the important job of keeping beachgoers and swimmers safe.
The week began on May 29 and runs through June 4, featuring many activities that showcase the work of the lifeguards.
The festivities began with a Q&A outside of the lifeguard headquarters. Visitors and lifeguards chatted and sipped coffee.
“Our first ever Beach Safety Week was a combination of several different great ideas from our lifeguards and EMTs on how to really educate the public on how to make their beach visits safer, as well as explaining what it is that we actually do,” said Ocean City Beach Patrol Director Allan Karas, a retired DEA agent hired by Ocean City in 2021. “I’m thrilled and proud of how successful it was.”
On Wednesday, visitors learned about the spoken and unspoken rules of the beach. Another day, attendees were taught CPR and First Aid. On Friday, the public got to view and learn about some of the beach patrol equipment, vehicles and tour the headquarters.
On Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. at 20th Street beach, there will be lifeguard tryouts for the 125th rookie class. Spectators are welcome to check out the excitement. And on Sunday, the last day of Beach Safety Week, all are welcome to watch a Mock Rescue on Ninth Street beach at 10:30 a.m.
Beach Patrol Captain Holly Lesser, promoted on May 27, is now in charge of community affairs and was instrumental in the hosting of safety week, Karas said.
Lesser said Beach Safety Week has been going great so far and she is hopeful it will continue to be an annual event.
The most important reason for hosting the event, she emphasized is, “We want to stress to the public ways to help keep themselves safe in the summer.”
She said the first day of the event gave a glimpse into what it was going to be like throughout the week — a successful event that generated a lot of interest from residents and tourists.
“We had tons of really valuable conversations with the public,” Lesser, who is also a third-grade teacher in the Egg Harbor Township school district, said. “We talked to so many people and had really great conversations.”
Hosting the safety week at the headquarters also helped people become familiar with it, should they need assistance for medical needs or other resources, Lesser added.
Karas said that the hope is to continue to host events such as the Beach Safety Week to engage the public and create a relationship with them.
“The OCBP has always been involved in the community in a variety of ways long before I took the helm,” he said. “I felt having a more focused strategy of community events as well as putting one person in charge of community affairs, Captain Lesser, would be more effective for our messaging.”
Both Karas and Lesser are optimistic about Saturday’s lifeguard tryouts.
Currently, there are 11 Ocean City beaches open, with more to be guarded as schools let out.
At full complement, there will be 41 beaches open with 40 swimming beaches and one surfing beach.
The goal is to have 40 to 50 lifeguards on staff to allow the beach patrol to open up five swimming beaches that were not opened last summer, Karas pointed out.
And the main focus of the tryouts is to hire highly skilled, qualified guards.
“The last few years, we have had a very low number of applicants,” Lesser said. “But this year, I know we have over 100 applicants right now to come and take the test. I know it will be really competitive.”
Karas is looking forward to a great summer for the Ocean City Beach Patrol. And he is ready, because he, along with others, have assembled a great team, he said.
“I’m looking forward to another great season on the Ocean City beaches as the Beach Patrol celebrates 125 years of outstanding ocean lifesaving,” he said. “With the incredible lifeguards and EMTs we have on the beaches, as well as the strong management team we have in place supporting them, we will continue to provide the most advances and professional beach patrol services in New Jersey.”
Check out the Ocean City Beach Patrol on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/oceancitybeachpatrolnj/