LI lifeguards head to Japan for tournament

Photo credit: Randee Daddona | Brianne Jackolski, 24, from Shirley, Brian Costello, 26, from Patchogue and Garrett Thibodeau from Port Jeffersonpractice sprinting along Smith Point Beach in Mastic in preparation for the International Lifeguard Competition in Japan. (Sept. 2, 2012)
Originally published: September 2, 2012 6:39 PM
Updated: September 2, 2012 7:33 PM


When it comes to beach sprinting, Long Island lifeguards represent.

Four local lifeguards — three from Smith Point County Park and one from Jones Beach State Park — plus two more from the metro area are heading to Japan next week to compete in an international lifesaving competition.

With the team traditionally dominated by year-round lifeguards from warm climates like Florida, it’s unusual that so much of the 12-person United States Lifesaving Association national team is from the Northeast.

“It is maybe a little bit disadvantageous to be from the mid-Atlantic or colder climates,” said Jay Butki, USLA’s team manager. “They definitely worked their niche. Somehow Long Island and beach sprints does well.”

Smith Point’s sand sprinters are Brianne Jackolski, 24, of Shirley; Brian Costello, 26, of Patchogue; and Garrett Thibodeau, 27, of Port Jefferson. Also taking part in the two-day competition will be Sean Lane, a lifeguard at Jones Beach. He could not be reached for comment. A fifth New Yorker, Tom O’Neill, a lifeguard at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways, is also on the team.

“The state is more represented than it’s ever been,” Butki said.

This will be the second time competing at the Sanyo Bussan International Lifesaving Cup for Jackolski and Costello, and the fifth time for Thibodeau.

The trip offers a chance to meet other lifeguards, experience the culture of a new place and compete against top athletes, said Jackolski, who starts this year as a health teacher for the William Floyd school district, where Thibodeau will be a permanent substitute teacher. “A lot of lifeguards don’t get the opportunity to go,” she said.

Collectively, the Smith Point trio have more than 30 years of lifeguard experience. They won their spots at a national competition in Cape May, N.J., in August.

In Japan, each will participate in beach-running events, including a relay. Thibodeau thinks Long Island’s deep and soft sandy shores give them an advantage over lifeguards coming from more packed-sand beaches.

Other members from the U.S. team hail from Florida, California and New Jersey. They will compete against teams from AustraliaCanadaGreat Britain and Japan Sept. 16-17.

“Whenever you get to wear USA on your jersey, it’s an honorable thing,” said Costello, who owns CrossFit Long Island in Yaphank.

The competition started in 2006 as a way to promote lifesaving and lifesaving sports. The Japanese government and sponsors cover hotel, food, translators and most costs. Lifeguards pay only for half of their airfare, Butki said.

In November, Jackolski and Costello will head to Australia to compete in the 2012 Lifesaving World Championships, known as Rescue 2012.

With Mackenzie Issler

September 2, 2012

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