For Smith Point lifeguards, rough seas make good practice
Published: August 22, 2009 10:30 PM
By ANDREW STRICKLER firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking advantage of closed public access and high surf, lifeguards at Smith Point County Park Saturday practiced ocean rescue techniques that have been put to the test this summer, when hundreds there have been caught in strong rip currents.
About 20 lifeguards grabbed surfboards and dived into waves in a maneuver called “punching the break.” The technique is practice for reaching stranded people at a series of wave breaks, the farthest about 300 yards from the beach, said assistant chief lifeguard Bob Kolar, 43, of Sayville.
In another drill, the lifeguards linked arms to create a kind of net that would find submerged people being pulled along underwater – what is known as a shallow-to-deep-water search.
“It was moderately rough out there,” said Kolar, a lifeguard for 28 years. “It was a great day to do training.”
Such techniques have been especially key this summer. In July, lifeguards at Smith Point and Cupsogue Beach County Park have performed a total of 470 rescues, said Capt. Tim Delaney of the Suffolk County Department of Parks.
“That whole month, the surf was small enough to be attractive to people, small enough that they would go in, but there were really strong rips so they’d end up getting caught,” Delaney said.
July also marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Smith Point County Park’s bathing area. No one has drowned there since 1959.
“No drownings, and I’m looking for some wood to knock on,” Delaney said.
Kolar deemed the day’s waves “pretty good.”
“It was like 8 to 10, 8 to 12 [feet], but we’ve had some 20-plus days out here in hurricane surf, like on some of those more direct hits like Hurricane Bob,” said Kolar, referring to the powerful 1991 storm that clipped Long Island and caused millions of dollars in damage. “The good ones stand out.”