This time of the year, the Long Island beaches are packed with working on their tan. So what does it take to keep the swimmers safe? Sean Bergin goes on the job with lifeguards at Smith Point County Parks.
They are considered by many to be the best lifeguards in the Country. With five of the last sever years the lifeguards at Smith Point earned the top honors at the National Lifeguards Championship, beating out teams from California, Hawaii and Australia. They tell you that they owe their success to the daily training regiment.
It begins with a daily 3 mile run in the deep sand, because it builds character. A casual jog, this is NOT. A return trip, this is known as an Indian run, the lat man or woman in the line sprints to the front. It keeps everyone honest. Now I was also an Ocean Water lifeguard, but that was 20 years and 40 pounds ago. And like many men, whom reach middle age, I was out to see if I still had it.
After the run it was on to the next bid of torture, they are called “Dunne-entry”. They will humble a man in the matter of minutes. It starts with a sprint up the sand dune, and back down to the beach and into the water, where you swim out to the buoy and back, three of them, continuously!
It nearly killed me!
After barely surviving the daily workout, I was glad to get up in the tower with veteran guard Chris Hoagland.
“We tell our lifeguards right of the bat, pretend that you are looking at a tennis match. You constantly want to be scanning the water, right to left, left to right, overlapping each other’s area, making sure that you are hitting all the trouble spots” – Lifeguard Hoagland said.
Now on this day, the ocean looked more like a lake. But even with the lack of trouble spots these lifeguards aren’t any less vigilant. These strict standards were put in place by the legendary Joe Dooley. He ran the beach from 1959, until his death, 40 years later, with a perfect track record. There has never been a drawing at Smith Point Park in 52 years! His son Jimmy carries on this tradition.
“They are proven methods that we continue to develop and continue to adhere to because it keeps our beaches safer.” – Jim Dooley said.
Jimmy coaches me through a pattern of rescue techniques. It consists of a torpedo swim or who makes the first contact with a victim. A lineman follows him, after they link up, the beach control pulls them to safety through the heaviest surf and rip currents.
Coming out to Smith Point, I was asking myself: “Do I still got it? And I think that I have most of it; but I don’t have what these guys have! You have some unbelievable athletes out here. “