BRICK – Cory Englehardt, 16, was hoping the water wouldn’t be too cold in early May for a swim test in the bay, which is one of the requirements to become a township lifeguard.
“I’m on the swim team, and I play football. A lot of football players are lifeguards, and a lot of the head lifeguards are teachers and coaches. I know them all,” said Englehardt, who is a junior at Brick High School.
However, not all lifeguards are football players, since just under half the current staff and just under half the applicants were female.
Englehardt was one of 35 hopefuls at lifeguard tryouts, held recently at Brick Beach 3, where they would have to run a mile and swim 500 yards in the bay under the watchful eyes of Director of Recreation Dan Santaniello and long-time beach captain Donovan Brown.
There would be 51 lifeguards returning this summer and 28 new guards would be hired, said Santaniello.
“Right now the bay temperature is 58 degrees, so it’s a little chilly,” he said. “We’ll hire the best 20 to 28 swimmers. Today it’s not about the time, we want to make sure they have a good enough stroke,” he said.
After the swim, the applicants had to run a mile on the beach. Santaniello said that by July 4, new and returning lifeguards must be able to run a mile in under 10 minutes and swim the 500 yards in under 10 minutes.
Once the new hires are identified, they are required by the USLA (United States Lifesaving Association) to undergo 21 hours of training, which includes CPR, first aid, beach procedures, rescues, jet ski and radio operations, and more.
“We probably do triple the training required by USLA,” Santaniello said.
The new lifeguards would be fully trained by Memorial Day, and then for their first summer as rookies they would sit with a senior lifeguard (who has four or more years experience) for the entire season, he said. During their second year they would not be on watch with another rookie, Santaniello added.
“It can be a juggling act, especially in August when a lot of lifeguards go back to college, that’s when Donovan [Brown] and I come out of retirement,” he said.
That’s true, said Brown, who has fully recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him for seven months at the end of last season.
As a result of the ongoing Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project, which is widening the beaches to at least 200 feet and creating 22-foot-tall dunes, Brown said there would be a lot of unknowns for the lifeguards this summer.
“It’s all new. We don’t know the landscape. What is the terrain under the water? Are there going to be bigger rip currents? It’s a big beach now. We don’t know because we never had a replenishment before,” said Brown, who has been the beach captain for some 35 years. “We train for everything.”
The guards would have all new lifeguard stands this year that are much lighter than the old ones, and are equipped with a dolly system to make them more maneuverable on the new, wide beach.
“I got the idea when I saw them in Wildwood Crest. They have cedar tops, which make them a lot lighter,” said Santaniello. “With the new big beach, we’ll be moving them closer to the water and following the tide line.”
At the end of the day, the chairs would be moved up to the dune line where they would be locked and chained, he said.
Santaniello said he put the chairs in his capital budget this year and they were constructed in-house by the Department of Public Works.
Becoming a lifeguard is in Lily Sherry’s family since her sister Chloe, 18, will be a second year township lifeguard this summer, and her brother Dean, 21, has been a lifeguard for a few years.
“My sister encouraged me to apply,” said Lily, 17, who is a junior at Brick High School. “I regret not trying last year. Chloe talks about how awesome it is to be on the beach every day. She loves it.”
A total of 20 applicants made the cut, including Englehardt and Sherry. Santaniello said there would be another tryout on for college applicants who couldn’t make it to the first tryout.