Ocean City Beach Patrol Works Hard, Rescues 557 Swimmers This Summer

first_imgThe innovative design of the lifeguard stand allows Ocean City Beach Patrol members to climb on top of the roof for a clear view of swimmers. By Maddy VitaleOcean City lifeguard Derek Kneisel was climbing up on his stand at 34th Street at about 6:45 p.m. It was some time in early July.He couldn’t recall the date, but the 20-year-old Linwood resident remembered vividly what the experience was like for him and the two people he saved that night.“I saw a kid in the water. I whistled to him to see if he was OK. The boy was in trouble and his dad had gone in to try and help him and needed help, too,” Kneisel explained Sunday. “I sent in a guard, so I could grab my paddleboard. I rushed in.”The father grabbed onto Kneisel’s board with the little boy in tow, and they all safely made it to shore. Swimming was permitted until 7 p.m. that night, but storms created big swells.“The dad was so grateful,” Kneisel continued. “He kept thanking us and said if we weren’t there, they might not be alive.”That was one of the many rescues this summer showing how important Ocean City’s Beach Patrol is in protecting the lives of countless sunbathers who enjoy the beaches every year.To date, for the season beginning on Memorial Day weekend, there have been 557 rescues on the 42 guarded beaches on the island, Beach Patrol Chief Mark Jamieson said from Beach Patrol Headquarters at 12th Street and the Boardwalk.Kneisel will certainly never forget the dramatic rescue he was involved in during that July night. It was not his first rescue in his four years as an Ocean City lifeguard, but it was one that caused him a sleepless night.“The whole night I had butterflies,” he said. “I imagined what would have happened if we weren’t there and kept thinking about how nervous the little boy was.”Lifeguard Derek Kneisel, 20, of Linwood, shows a rescue board like the one he used to rush out and save a father and son in July.It was an emotional rescue, but one Kneisel and the other lifeguards under Jamieson know how to handle.“The chief sends emails out to all the guards at the end of winter saying to swim and surf. He makes sure we are ready for the next season,” said Kneisel, who attends The College of New Jersey in Mercer County, where he is on the swim team.Jamieson compared last year’s summer to this one.“Last year we had weekend rain. This year it would rain for a couple of days but there hasn’t been much of a reprieve from the heat,” he said.A couple of bad storms created a system with big swells at the beginning of July. In June and July, the water was rougher, the chief noted. He said that definitely contributed to the rescues early in the season.“August waters have been much more mellow,” Jamieson said.Rescue statistics for August will be available next week, he said.Ocean City Beach Patrol Chief Mark Jamieson sums up the summer as a busy one and said the lifeguards did an outstanding job.While some communities, such as neighboring Sea Isle City, use caution flags to warn of water and surf conditions. Jamieson said Ocean City may use flag warnings in the future, but for now, they are sticking with what works.Paul Gallagher, lieutenant with the Ocean City Beach Patrol, has been a lifeguard for 35 years. He said part of what makes the patrol run so smoothly is good communication between the lifeguards and the public.Lifeguards alert swimmers of rough waters and advise them not to go in, to come in closer to shore or not go in at all.Swimmers take a cool dip on the busy holiday weekend.Currently, the beach patrol is operating with 160 employees, which include lifeguards and administration. Over the last couple of weeks, lifeguards have left for school and fall sports as the summer season winds down.Traditionally, the beginning of school means fewer beaches that are guarded. However, this year, because more lifeguards, like Kneisel, are going to school nearby, three additional beaches will remain open after Labor Day, Jamieson said.Beaches will be guarded through Sept. 16 at St. Charles Place, Eighth, Ninth, 11th, 12th and 34th streets. Lifeguards will be on the beaches daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 5:30 p.m. on weekends.Jamieson said the shoulder season in Ocean City offers many activities and events for vacationers and residents, and the weather is still warm.“There are a lot more reasons to come to Ocean City post Labor Day with events like the air show and other things to do through the first week of October,” Jamieson said.Depending on the need, lifeguards may be available to protect beaches after Sept. 16. He cautioned that bathers should only swim on guarded beaches.Jamieson summed up the summer of 2018; “It has been a great season.”The Ocean City Beach Patrol can be reached by calling (609) 525-9201 or visit www.ocnj.us/ocbp.Ocean City Beach Patrol Headquarters is at 12th Street and the Boardwalk.last_img read more