Local Beach Patrols Prepare for First-Time Red Bull Event in Atlantic City, Honoring Lifeguarding Tradition

Ship Bottom, Barnegat Light, Harvey Cedars and Long Beach Township Compete July 21
By JON COEN | Jul 15, 2015
Photo by: Jack Reynolds Red Bull will host the first-ever Surf and Rescue Lifeguard Tournament in Atlantic City on July 21. Most of the Long Beach Island beach patrols, including Ship Bottom shown here, are gearing up in a big way.

During the course of this summer, there are three major lifeguard competitions on LBI: the LBI Lifeguard Tournament in Barnegat Light, the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol’s Mayor’s Cup, and the Ship Bottom Invitational. There are junior lifeguard events, a 1-mile ocean swim, and specialty races on the bay. Local squads will travel north and south to compete in other coastal towns.

But this year, there’s a new event that has many patrols working and preparing. It’s called Red Bull Surf and Rescue, set for July 21 in Atlantic City. Red Bull has invited all the lifeguard teams in New Jersey and Delaware to compete in this first-of-its-kind event. With Red Bull’s track record, it promises to be a high-profile, visually stimulating race, extremely exciting for not only the participants, but also the spectators. It also marks the first time that all 32 beach patrols in New Jersey have been invited to one event, with eight “open” teams for former guards who are still interested in racing.

Each team will be comprised of three men and one woman. The tournament will consist of three disciplines – swimming, rowing and paddling. Each is a relay, meaning every member of the team will have to compete in all. Unlike most tournaments, Surf and Rescue has multiple rounds, meaning any team can be eliminated at any point, so every member of the team must be proficient at all disciplines. The final will consist of an eight-team mixed relay.

Much of the focus of this event is to shed light on the history of lifeguarding in New Jersey. The first beach patrol in the country was established in Atlantic City in 1891. Back then, lifeguards were volunteers. They built their own headquarters at the South Carolina Avenue beach, where the event will be held next Tuesday. Long Beach Island didn’t have the number of tourists to watch out for as Atlantic City, but Beach Haven had the first guards on LBI.

“Since the 1890s, lifeguards, called ‘beach masters,’ had been solely in the employ of the two major hotels, the Engleside and the Baldwin. The town itself bore no responsibility for protecting bathers on its popular beaches,” said Jeanette Lloyd of the New Jersey Maritime Museum, in Beach Haven, “Emily Lloyd Wilson fought to establish a borough-managed beach patrol when appointed to the board of health in 1916. Between 1916 and the early 1920s, our lifeguards were approved by the elected officials,” she added.

Long Beach Township followed suit in 1936; eventually every LBI municipality had its own patrol.

South Jersey is also where lifeguarding developed as a sport. Today, there are lifeguarding competitions around the world. The event also celebrates the storied Van Duyne rescue boats, the rowboats that are still built in Cape May by the Van Duyne family. Of the Island patrols, Barnegat Light, Ship Bottom, Harvey Cedars and Long Beach Township will be competing.

“We’re extremely excited for the patrol to have the opportunity to compete in a Red Bull event, especially considering that not only is it the first lifeguard event of this caliber here in New Jersey, but it is also in South Jersey. There are not many opportunities for us to compete with all of the best patrols in the state. It’s virtually unheard of,” said Randy Townsend, captain of the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol, and one of the few captains who will actually be competing at Surf and Rescue. “I know Harvey Cedars will be heading down ready to compete. We train for what we love and what we do, and that is keeping beaches safe, not because of the fame and fortune that go along with the event.”

There does happen to be some fame and fortune with this event, however. The winning beach patrol stands to go home with $5,000 and a new Van Duyne boat. The second-place team nets $2,000, and the third $1,000.

Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol will likely send two teams to the event, one being Townsend, professional triathlete Jenna Parker, legendary distance paddler Billy Webster and Ryan Corcoran, a four-time high school All-American who swam for Syracuse University.  Cedars’ second squad will consist of Jeff Shantley, who swims for Bucknell; big Matt Gruszecki, a former Pennsylvania state water polo MVP who swims for the University of Maryland; Otto Weiler, a two-time rowing champ,;and Maggie Shaw, who has made three conference finals swimming for Wagner College.

Barnegat Light BP will be sending two teams also.

“This event is unique, and I am really interested in it,” said Barnegat Light Beach Patrol’s Nate Humberston. “Lifeguarding is a thing where you’re always improving. There’s no such thing as the perfect lifeguard, and this tournament reflects that. Everyone on your team has to be able to do everything in these relays. You can’t necessarily choose how you’re going to save somebody.”

Humberston will lead one team. He swam for Bucknell before joining the men’s crew (rowing) team. He will be backed by Sarah Button, who swam for Colgate College; Zach Kohl, who swam for the University of Virginia; and Mike Smith, who swam for Montclair. The other team will be Ben Schiepe, who played water polo for Penn State; Caren Guyett, who swam for Colgate and competes for Team US in international lifeguard competitions; and Brady Stouffer, a 26-year veteran of the patrol, who built this team. They are still deciding on a fourth.

Long Beach Township has already registered one team and is in the process of registering a second.

“In the past, our beach patrol wouldn’t have been allowed to do this, so everyone here is super excited about it,” reported Josh Bligh, Long Beach Township’s Beach Patrol coordinator.

“Everyone knows what Red Bull events are like. A lot of the events we go to are more or less the same format. This is very different. Plus, there’s a big sponsor, it’s in Atlantic City with all the bells and whistles, and we’ll be meeting all these other teams in one place.”

Long Beach Township will be represented by Capt. Josh Wall, who guards in Australia in the offseason; Ironwoman Lt. Adrienne Bush; top swimmer Mike Wheaton; and all-around performer Thomas Caulfield.

Ship Bottom’s team will be anchored by Chris Durbin, who was a four-year swimmer for St. Augustine Prep; Dan Duffey, who finished second in the SEA Paddle around Manhattan last year; and Evan Marine, a former Belmar BP competitor. Beach Patrol Capt. Keith Stokes has two female swimmers in mind in Tracy Hammerlee, who swam for the University of Texas, and Katie Ullinger, a college crew rower who finished second in the Barnegat Light swim last summer. One of the women will compete with the first squad; the other may join a team with paddle ace Johnny Skolnik and rower Tom Smith.

The local squads will face powerhouse teams like Ocean City, Brigantine and Lavallette. For those who are going to Atlantic City to support Island teams, the event starts at 6 p.m. on the South Carolina Avenue beach, adjacent to Resorts Casino. Entry is free. Red Bull will host an after party at the Landshark Bar & Grill immediately following the awards.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

“We’re extremely excited for the patrol to have the opportunity to compete in a Red Bull event, especially considering that not only is it the first lifeguard event of this caliber here in New Jersey, but it is also in South Jersey. There are not many opportunities for us to compete with all of the best patrols in the state, let alone compete against South Jersey teams. It’s virtually unheard of,” said Randy Townsend, captain of the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol and competitor. (Photo by: Jack Reynolds)
Red Bull Surf and Rescue celebrates the history of lifeguard competitions. Beach Haven was the first town on Long Beach Island to have lifeguards. (Photo by: New Jersey Maritime Museum)
Nate Humberston of Barnegat Light Beach Patrol likes the format of this event, as it favors versatile lifeguards who can compete in several different disciplines. (Photo by: Jack Reynolds)
The Ship Bottom Beach Patrol, circa 1953. Lifeguarding has a long tradition on Long Beach Island. (Courtesy of: Ship Bottom Beach Patrol)
Harvey Cedars will be sending two teams to compete in Surf and Rescue. (Photo by: Jack Reynolds)
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