Ocean City Today

OCBP guards must be physically fit

By Kristin Joson

(July 31, 2015) Imagine your office has a 300-pound white stand that you sit perched on in the middle of a sandy beach. Your daily job requirements require you to drag your 300-pound office chair across the sand each morning and evening.

From your office chair you watch over hundreds of beach patrons in your area to keep them safe and out of harms way. If you are one of the 200-plus members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) you know this is the greatest job in the world. Being a Surf Rescue Technician (SRT) with the Ocean City Beach Patrol is a physically and mentally demanding job every day. They are called Surf Rescue Technicians (SRT) rather than lifeguards because of the unique multi-faceted demands and skills required of the position.

All skills are taught during a structured Surf Rescue Academy and you will not see them wearing their red uniforms or manning the white lifeguard stand unless they have demonstrated proficiency in all the required skills and techniques. 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, with the crew chief stand located in the 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.

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 SRT’s 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 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” 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. One of the reasons we do that is so that the crews will want to practice together which occurs before or after the workday. 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 lead 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. Our organization is about encouraging our employees to stay in shape, to continue training, improve their skills and advance in leadership. 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, Del. 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 and lifeguarding skills.

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 creative 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.

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 is offered in Ocean City. Once a candidate passes the physical skills test they are appointed to a 65-hour, paid  ($12.99/hr and $14.07 after probation) Surf Rescue Academy where they are drug tested before they are trained in all necessary skills, techniques, procedures and protocols of the beach patrol. There will be pre-employment physical skills evaluations for the 2016 season, on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015 and Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.  We encourage anyone interested in becoming a lifeguard to call beach patrol headquarters at 410-289-7556.

For specifics on requirements, test locations, dates and times or to register for a test, please refer to OCBP’s website at www.ococean.com/ocbp; click on the “Employment” button or email ocbp@ococean.com.

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