Ocean City Today
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Job of Ocean City lifeguard can be physically demanding

On Guard
By Kristin Joson | Jun 22, 2017
Photo by: Kristin Joson Members of the current Surf Rescue Academy drag one of the Ocean City Beach Patrol stands, which weighs 300 pounds. They move them several times a day due to the tide changes.

(June 23, 2017) Can you imagine dragging your desk to your office each morning before work?

Of course not, but our guards basically do just that. The lifeguard stands weigh 300 pounds and part of the guard’s daily routine on the job is dragging that 300-pound chair in sand to the front of the beach.

Being an Ocean City lifeguard is a physically demanding job. The OCBP currently employs over 200 people. Surf Rescue Technician (SRT) is the title that our lifeguards earn once they complete Surf Rescue Academy and you see them wearing their red uniforms and manning the tall and very heavy white lifeguard stand. Each SRT is a member of one of the 17 crews that stretch from the inlet jetty to the Delaware state line.

Each crew functions as a team and has five or six lifeguard stands, witah the crew chief stand located in the center along with a two-way radio as a communications link to the town’s 911 communications center.

In addition to the crew chief there is an assistant crew chief and up to six additional SRTs who work together to cover all stands in the crew from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as well as days off, lunch breaks and mandatory workouts. Yes, mandatory workouts during their work day.

They not only have to meet certain physical requirements to be hired as an SRT and be re-qualified each summer season with the patrol, they also have to complete a prescribed daily workout of at least 20 minutes per day in the midst of their guarding shifts. In reality, our SRTs are no different than a professional athlete who we have hired for their physical attributes and have trained them in techniques that allow them to use these special skills and abilities to protect you when you visit.

To provide coverage for workouts, some SRTs are scheduled for a 4.5-hour shift. When working this shift the SRT starts their work day at 10 a.m. They begin by making sure that the entire area of the beach covered by their crew is prepared for the day. Once set up and administrative tasks are completed they begin relieving each SRT in the crew who is on a 7.5-hour shift.

Once each SRT is relieved they are required to perform an ordinance check (local rules and laws) on their beach by walking (jogging) in among the beach patrons checking for unsafe conditions and infractions, followed by a mandatory workout prescribed by the crew chief. The workouts usually consist of swimming, running or both. They can change daily at the discretion of the crew chief that runs the workouts in a certain area. If it’s extremely hot, then it’ll likely be a water workout day, but on a day when the wind is high, and temperature moderate, there are all types of various workout activities the crew chief will devise.

Once all crew members have completed their morning duties and workout the “lunch rover” (the SRT on the 4.5-hour shift) will replace each SRT who is working the full day for a 30-minute lunch break beginning at noon.

As an added incentive for the 17 crews to work hard at training and stay in top physical shape, the patrol holds an annual crew competition each year in late July, which is a great spectator event. One of the reasons we do that is so that the crews will want to practice together which occurs before or after the work day.

The beach patrol also has a triathlon club and organizes physical events such as running and swimming (200-meter sprints up to 2-mile distant events) early in the mornings or evenings when the guards are off duty which leads to certifications that are required for higher positions within the patrol. This is one of the ways that our guards move up the ranks. They get certified in the different programs so they can apply for another position the next year.

We also have team sports and pick-up events to allow our various employees to participate in many different activities. Our annual “Iron Guard” and “Strong Guard” competitions not only support our fitness goals but also give “bragging rights” to those SRT’s who participate in these fun events.

For those that want to increase fitness but are not into competition, we have a Group Bike Ride that puts on many miles as they tour the area outside Ocean City. Our organization is about encouraging our employees to stay in shape, to continue training and to get better. As a bonus, all of this extra work that they do off the clock helps them when they’re actually working.

Being in top physical condition is not only critical to do the daily job of guarding but it also comes in handy for competitions. Some patrol members compete in contests that are held around the area and in other parts of the country for lifeguards. Each year we send a team of OCBP female guards to women’s competitions and we also send a competition team consisting of males and females to participate in the United States Lifeguard Association Regional competitions.

In addition we participate in the lifeguard Olympics which is held in Rehoboth Beach every year. Teams are selected through tryouts to represent the OCBP and all those who compete are scheduled off and receive no compensation or support from Town of Ocean City funds although many of our teams do receive support from local businesses. All of these competitions offer an opportunity for lifeguards throughout the region to display their physical fitness.

So when you see the guards doing strange maneuvers on the beach, now you know they are probably either doing a mandatory workout devised by their crew chief or training for an upcoming competition…. or both. But rest assured, even though they are on a break and working out, another guard is covering for them so that all 10 miles of Ocean City are fully guarded. However, during their workout they must remain in the area that is covered by their crew so in an emergency they are available to assist and add extra support to the crew.

If you would like to become a lifeguard, it might interest you to know that because of the unique demands of the job, the Ocean City Beach Patrol does not require or recognize certification or past experience with other agencies. Anyone seeking employment with the OCBP must successfully complete all aspects of an eight-phase pre-employment physical skills evaluation.

Testing for OCBP to work next summer (2018) will be offered in Ocean City, with the first opportunity on Saturday, Aug. 5, and seven additional opportunities both in Ocean City and throughout the region. Once a candidate passes the physical skills test they are appointed to a 65-hour, paid ($13.29/hour and $14.65 after a three-week probation period) Surf Rescue Academy.

Prior to the start of academy and each year they return to the patrol, they must pass a mandatory drug test. During Surf Rescue Training Academy each rookie is trained and assessed in all necessary skills, techniques, procedures and protocols of the beach patrol.

Help us spread the word. If the lifeguards are not on duty, then it’s not safe to swim. Always remember to keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard is in the stand! We stay physically fit to protect you but we can only do that if we are on duty.

 

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