Ocean City Today
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Canadian members of OC’s Beach Patrol

Sixteen citizens from our neighboring country help guard 10 miles of coast
By Kara Hallissey | Aug 24, 2017
Ocean City Beach Patrol members from Canada pose for a picture during their weekly Monday morning meeting. Pictured, from left, are Alexandre Desgagne-Lebeuf, Francois Houle, Eloik Guay, Stephanie Lehalle, Olivier Pouliot and Philippe Moisan.

This story is part of an ongoing summer series featuring Ocean City Beach Patrol members and their other jobs.

(Aug. 25, 2017) Every summer, Canadian citizens spend time on the stands in Ocean City and this year was no different, with 16 lifeguards from our neighboring country employed by the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

Francois Houle, 25, of Québec, joined the Ocean City Beach Patrol for the first time this summer.

“It’s a great job and experience,” Houle said. “Everyone is so nice and passionate about what they do. I love making a difference in someone’s life.”

The surf rescue technician has a friend who was a crew chief for more than a decade in Ocean City. Houle also took a lifesaving class in Costa Rica.

“It was a dream come true to come here and get the experience in Ocean City,” Houle said. “I was happy I could do it this year, with school, it was difficult.”

Houle spent 18 months as an attorney in Canada before receiving his master’s degree from Cégep de Sherbrooke in Québec. When summer ends, he will return to Canada and work as a criminal attorney for the government.

“I needed to spend a summer on the ocean, that is what was missing in my life,” said Philippe Moisan, a first-year guard. “I love being on the ocean, training and educating people. You never know what the conditions will be. The ocean always has a challenge or uncertainty.”

The surf rescue technician spends his first summer on the Ocean City Beach Patrol after arranging a group of 10 Canadian friends and driving down to the resort for tryouts.

“Ocean City is in close driving proximity to Canada,” Moisan said. “Ten of us tried out and seven people made it.”

The 20-year-old loves the changing ocean conditions, which makes his job exciting because he never knows what will happen next.

Moisan, of Montréal, participated in lifeguard training in Australia last summer and enjoyed it.

“People are so happy and nice [in Ocean City],” Moisan said. “It is nice to help people and to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself.”

Currently, Moisan is in his second year of medical school at McGill University in Montréal.

Eloik Guay, 18, of Québec, spends his first summer in Ocean City and on the beach patrol.

“Being on a crew and the friends you make in Ocean City [are why he enjoys his job,]” Guay said. “You meet a lot of people in the summer and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. Making rescues is always a special feeling.”

This summer, the surf rescue technician estimates he has made at least 30 rescues so far.

Guay decided to try out after talking to a couple people who have been employed by the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

Currently, Guay is in his second year at Cégep de Sherbrooke in Québec studying health sciences and plans to eventually go on to medical school.

Olivier Pouliot, 22, of Québec City, has guarded the Ocean City shores for two summers.

“The job is awesome and its three months out of the cold winter,” Pouliot said. “It’s a family. You meet friends you will be close to for years.”

The surf rescue technician took a lifeguarding class in Hawaii and met people who had worked for Ocean City Beach Patrol.

“It was a dream and I started looking at websites,” Pouliot said. “I was told this was a great beach patrol and encouraged to try out. Ocean City Beach Patrol is professional, well organized and they take care of us.”

Pouliot loves the long-lasting friendships made on the beach patrol and his favorite part about the job is making rescues.

“It’s all about family and friends,” Pouliot said. “It is fun out on the beach and you get close to the organization. I love making rescues and helping people. They appreciate you are there for them and saved their life.”

Pouliot is in his second year of college studying physical education to become a teacher and he plans on coming back to the Ocean City Beach Patrol next summer.

Stephanie Lehalle, 21, of Montréal, guards the Ocean City beach for her second summer.

“Rescues give you an adrenaline rush and a real purpose,” Lehalle said. “My favorite part is knowing I saved someone.”

Five years ago, Lehalle received her lifeguard certification in Hawaii. She was weighing a few options when her friend recommended Ocean City.

“I visited Ocean City three summers ago and wanted experience with rescues in the ocean,” Lehalle said. “I love the after-hours life of hanging out with people here, being with friends and getting really close to people. You make friends for life.”

Back in Canada, the surf rescue technician is a lifeguard part time, while in her second year of university at HEC Montréal where she is studying business and finance.

Alexandre Desgagne-Lebeuf, 26, of Québec City, spends his first summer on the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

“I like being in a sunny place with happy people and making rescues,” Desgagne-Lebeuf said. “People are grateful and the working environment is great.”

The surf rescue technician has been a lifeguard in Canada for almost a decade. He wanted to gain experience in Ocean City by using the skills he has learned through the years.

“I was a crew chief in Canada at an inland beach,” Desgagne-Lebeuf said. “Ocean City had a lot of answers on their website and I knew where I was going.”

Desgagne-Lebeuf recently graduated with an industrial engineering degree and has worked as a research assistant at Université Laval in Québec City. This year, he will begin studying for his master’s degree in logistics applied to the construction industry.

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