Surf City Overcomes Rough Conditions to Win Women’s Invitational Lifeguard Tournament

Jul 26, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Surf City Beach Patrol’s Anna Esposito and Gaby Hartney get off to a good start in the Mile Row during the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol Women’s Invitational on July 24.

Frankly, the ocean conditions stank – horrendously, in fact. But a stiff northeast wind and treacherous surf weren’t going to deter Anna Esposito and Gaby Hartney on July 24. It was the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol Women’s Invitational, after all, and they were determined to prove themselves capable of handling the conditions.

“We had been training all summer for the Mile Row, and we were going out there to do it,” Esposito said later, after she and Hartney won the event despite Hartney sustaining what was deemed a minor injury when their surfboat flipped and crashed into her back. “We were happy for the opportunity to go out there and race, and we didn’t regret the decision at all.”

After the Harvey Cedars trio of Maggie Shaw, Jenna Martinelli and Katie Loftus easily won the Line Pull to start the tournament, Esposito and Hartney joined two others crews – Cedars’ Michaela Harvey and Emily McHugh and Township’s Taylor Teliszewski and Grace Coleman – for what was going to be a very tough Mile Row.

It took some doing, but both the Surf City and Cedars rowers cleared the first 300 feet of rough surf and headed toward the first turn markers. Unfortunately, Teliszewski and Coleman were bucked from their boat, which then flipped, and they ended up not going any farther. Soon after the first turn to the north, the Cedars and Surf City boats got tangled up. They managed to get their oars loose of each other, and Hartney and Esposito took off.

“We really turned it on there,” Esposito said. “Once we made the turn southward, we passed them on the way and knew they weren’t catching us.”

Esposito and Hartney cruised to the south marker and then turned back into the wind for the final stretch. They made the turn back to the beach with several hundred yards between them and the Cedars boat. After they were bounced from their boat, they swam the rest of the way in, and Hartney ran to the finish line for the victory. She then was loaded onto a backboard and carted away for medical treatment.

Prior to the race, the rowers were cautioned about going out in such rough conditions and were given the option not to compete in the event. Ship Bottom, Beach Haven and Brigantine opted out.

“We knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into, and we wanted to take the challenge,” Esposito said. “And even though Gaby ended up hurt a bit, she said it was worth it because we’ve put so much time into training for this. We weren’t going to back away from the challenge.”

After the event, team captains requested that all remaining rowing events be tossed from the competition, along with the rowing portion of the Ironwoman event, scheduled as the final event. The Ironwoman later was dropped because of darkness.

From there, the competition forged ahead, and Brigantine’s Grace Emig won the 1,500-foot Paddle ahead of Surf City’s Julia Rothstein, while the 1,000-foot Swim was captured by Ship Bottom’s Tracey Hemmerle, followed by Shaw and Surf City’s Maria Nitti, whose teammate, Julia Rothstein, then won the Mile Run, followed by Beach Haven’s Hannah Figueroa.

Carrying a one-point lead over Harvey Cedars heading into the last three events, Surf City dropped the hammer, winning the next two events – the Paddle Relay and Buoy Rescue – and surging ahead by 12 points.

In the Paddle Relay, the quartet of Lauren and Emily Rothstein, Alyssa Gesek and Pepper Kolman cruised to victory ahead of Ship Bottom. Hemmerle and Muldoon used the first two legs to send SBBP into the lead, but Lauren Rothstein chased down and passed Maggie Covert during the third leg. Rothstein handed off the board to Kolman with a sizable lead that increased on the fourth leg.

Kolman got right back into the mix when she and Nitti easily won the Buoy Rescue, sealing the team’s championship as light began to fade.

“It’s like a washing machine out there,” Kolman said. “It’s probably a little crazy to get into the ocean today, but it’s nice to have a challenge, and in these conditions it’s anybody’s game. It was fun and exciting.”

After Lauren Rothstein and Nitti placed third in the Paddle Rescue, Surf City finished with 50 points, 12 ahead of Harvey Cedars, last year’s champion in the inaugural women’s tournament on LBI. Brigantine ended up third with 33 points, followed by Ship Bottom with 24.

“I’m really glad Township didn’t call it off,” Kolman said. “They believed in us to be able to compete in these conditions, and I think a lot of us are really happy about that. We have very strong women here, and it’s good that we got to prove what we can do.”

— David Biggy

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