REHOBOTH BEACH — A “victim” is at a buoy in the ocean, approximately 150 meters from the shore.
A “rescuer” attached to a landline swims out to meet the “victim.”
Once they meet and the victim’s arm is raised, two lifeguards on land pull the landline to bring the victim and rescuer back to shore.
It’s all timed and in the end, there’s a winner: whoever finishes the task the quickest.
This is known as a landline rescue race, and it’s one of nine events lifeguards from Virginia to New York came to Rehoboth Beach to partake in Wednesday during the United States Lifesaving Association’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships.
“It’s a good community of lifeguards we have all along the East Coast,” said Jordan Lingo of the Rehoboth Beach Patrol. “Everyone takes their jobs very seriously and they like to compete. It’s definitely an exciting event.”
The events are designed to test the lifeguards’ skills and strengths and emulate the day-to-day experience of being on a beach patrol.
“It keeps everyone in top guard, working out for competitions,” said Sgt. Rick Cawthern of the Ocean City Beach Patrol.
“It also helps us promote safety on our beaches.”
The landline rescue race was a popular pick when beach patrol members were asked which event was their favorite. That rescue method is used when victims need to be rescued in rough surf.
“It really separates the men from the boys in this one,” said Troy Cannatelli of the Dewey Beach Patrol. “It’s not just the strongest guys or the guys with the most endurance. It’s really who can maintain the strength for the full three-, four-minute pull, which is really difficult toward the end. You really get gassed.”
Other events include runs and swims, a rescue board race, and beach flags an event in which competitors line up facing down in the sand, and then on the start command, the competitors rise, turn and sprint to flags 20 meters away.
“Beach flags are pretty entertaining too,” Cannatelli said. “It’s a good competition there.”
Captain Erik Gorman of the Smith Point, N.Y. Beach Patrol said the competitions help measure his patrol members with others in the area.
“We have a highly intensive workout regimen that we have back at our beach, but when we come here, it kind of sizes you up against other beaches,” Gorman said. “It really gives you a little extra reason to push hard at home.”
The next step in the schedule is a competition for crafts in Long Branch, N.J., on July 18. The national competition is set for Aug. 9-11 in Cape May, N.J.
According to Gorman, the mid-Atlantic regional competition is a good way to see how teams stack up against other beach patrols in the nation.
“This is good gauging for nationals, because a lot of the national competition competitors we’ll find in the mid-Atlantic region,” he said. “They’re some of the best.”