BRICK – Township beaches are fully staffed with lifeguards and badge checkers, and they’re wider than ever, due to the Army Corps of Engineers Beach Replenishment project, and with some long-range weather forecasts calling for a hotter summer than usual, the Jersey shore could see record crowds.
Lifeguard tryouts were held on May 13, and 26 applicants did their best to run a mile on the beach in under 10 minutes, and swim 250 yards in 58 degree bay water, said Director of Recreation Dan Santaniello. By July 4, lifeguards must be able to swim 500 yards in under ten minutes, he added.
There are 63 lifeguards returning from last year, so 11 of the applicants were hired, he said, for a total of 74. There are also 21 badge checkers, with about half of those new hires, he said.
“It gets tougher to get lifeguards every year,” Santaniello said. “They need a lot of certificates, they need to train every day, and a lot of kids would rather just sleep in.”
The township pays entry level lifeguards $11 an hour, $1 more an hour than minimum wage. Each year lifeguards will make $1 more an hour for five years when minimum wage will be $15, he said.
“We give them a little extra money to get them to come out,” he said. “They could do something easier, like work at McDonald’s for minimum wage, so we pay a little more to start so they might look at it a little differently.”
Donovan Brown has been working on the Brick beaches for about 50 years, and he will be returning as the beach chief with beach co-captains Fred “FJ” Lucchetti, a teacher at Brick High School, and Robbie Brown, a teacher at Brick Memorial High School.
They are replacing former beach captains Meredith Hudson, who is working as a vice-principal at Brick Memorial, and Timmy Brennan, a teacher at Brick Memorial who moved to Point Pleasant and is a lifeguard supervisor at Jenkinson’s.
As an added bonus, since both beach captains are high school teachers, they’re in a good position to help with recruiting lifeguards, Santaniello said.
While on duty, Brick lifeguards spend one hour on the lifeguard stand and one hour patrolling the beach.
“There have been studies done that show after an hour on the stand, lifeguards are not as productive, that they need to rest their eyes,” Santaniello said.
While they’re patrolling, they are still there as first responders, he said, so if there’s a save they serve as backup.
“That’s why we’re the best beach in the area. You can’t put a price tag on safety,” Santaniello said.
The Brick oceanfront is in great shape since the Army Corps of Engineers widened the beaches last year and created dunes.
They predicted the replenished beaches would lose 20 to 30 percent over the winter. The Brick beaches lost less than 20 percent, Santaniello said, but by the end of July, normal summer tides would return about 10 percent.
Residents complained last year about the gravel “walkovers” and the length of the path to the beaches, so the township is using blue Mobi-mats on Brick beaches 1, 2 and 3, which are easier on the feet and prevent washouts, Santaniello said.
“All beaches have a long walk to the beach,” he said.
Since the beach replenishment and dune construction, there are no longer “cut-throughs” to enter the beach. They have all been replaced with “walk-overs” to protect the dunes, the barrier island and the mainland.
Lifeguards maintain the beaches, and each day at around 5 a.m. either Donovan Brown or Santaniello rake the public beaches.
Brick’s 2.5 mile stretch of beach includes about a dozen private beaches. Using a rotating system, each of them gets raked once every three days, he said.
Season beach badges are $30, and season parking is $30. Daily badges cost $8 this year, up from $5 last year. Daily parking remains at $5.
“If you’re going to the beach, swim in pairs and swim in front of the lifeguards,” Santaniello said. “And obey the flags.”
Red flags mean no swimming allowed. Yellow means swim with caution. Usually lifeguards will allow the public to go in up to their knees, and lifeguards are stationed in the water when there are yellow flags, Santaniello said. Green flags mean conditions are good, he said.
Starting June 17, beaches opened seven days a week and will remain open until Labor Day.