Lifeguard Competition

Local Beach Patrols Prepare for Red Bull Surf & Rescue Event

By Jon Coen | Jul 10, 2019
Courtesy of: Red Bull Five Island Beach Patrols will send teams to Atlantic City for Red Bull Surf & Rescue

Atlantic City, NJ — In 2015, Red Bull Surf & Rescue first came to Atlantic City, billed as the most exciting lifeguard competition in New Jersey. Not only was it a rare time the entire state would be competing in one place, but there also was a serious take for the winner, in the form of a custom Van Duyne rescue boat. And then there was the fact that Red Bull, an international energy drink brand, would be creating a visual spectacle and an awesome race experience.

The event went off, and each year the excitement built along with the level of competition. Soon athletes started training specifically for the Red Bull tournament. By 2017, they were coming from as far as New York and Virginia Beach. But last year, with a brand new Waverunner and $2,500 on the line, a weather front came in from the west. A dangerous storm loomed, and the competition had to be called after only two rounds.

Disappointed lifeguards scurried off as lightning descended on the beach. Although Ocean City was declared the winner, it certainly felt like unfinished business.

On July 16, 40 teams will gather in Atlantic City with an updated format to settle the score.

This year, Barnegat Light, Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Harvey Cedars will be sending teams. And for the first time, the Surf City Beach Patrol will head down to A.C. to do battle.

While our locals have put up some impressive showings, Harvey Cedars has had the best results. Being tough to beat the last five years, it has won the last four consecutive LBI Lifeguard Tournaments and finished second twice at the Red Bull Surf & Rescue. The patrol will be sending three or more teams to the competition. The A Team will consist of Billy Webster, Ryan Corcoran, Jenna Parker and Captain Randy Townsend.

The biggest news to most involved this year is that the boats are back.

Surf & Rescue was created to determine the best overall lifeguard crew. Four-person teams, which must include at least one woman, have had to swim, paddle and row.

From the inaugural event, the most exciting segment was the row. New Jersey beach patrols have a long tradition with rowing, and the thrills and spills of the heavy boats made it a favorite for spectators.

Ship Bottom can afford to send only a single team and won’t even have any support as the new beach schedule keeps lifeguards on until 6 p.m. in the borough.

“We can’t afford to deplete our patrol any more than four people,” explained Shawn Hannon of Manahawkin, who is captaining the Ship Bottom team this year.

The four are Hannon, Jake Andryshack, Reed Sinkinson and Tracey Hemmerle.

“I think we have a team that can hang. We just have to get through the swim in the first round,” Hannon admitted.

As the event grew through the second and third years, it became apparent that rowing was not part of lifeguarding outside of New Jersey. In order to level the playing field in 2017, the boats were taken out of the competition. But the New Jersey squads, which pride themselves on rowing, were none too happy.

It was a moot point last year, however, as the event was cut short.

But this year, rowing is again part of the event, which is sure to bring back full enthusiasm from Jersey beach patrols, specifically LBI’s.

“Atlantic City is the original beach patrol in the whole country. They started out saving people in boats, which was a tradition of the lifesaving stations at that time. You have to have rowing. If you take rowing out of a lifeguard event in New Jersey, it’s not really a true lifeguard event,” Hannon said.

The first round is a 250-meter box course Swim Relay. The top 20 finishing teams move to the “A” Pool, having a distinct advantage in the second round, which is a paddle. The bottom 20 teams to go the “B” Pool.

The second round is two heats in a 450-meter apex Paddleboard Relay. The top 14 teams from the “A” Pool will advance out to the third round, while only the top two finishers from the “B” Pool advance.

The third round is entirely new as the remaining 16 teams compete in a Taplin Style “M-Swim,” which means the course is the shape of an M, bringing them back to the beach in the middle of a 450-meter course before tagging off to Doubles Row partners for a 700-meter apex course. It’s the apex, where all the boats have to make the same turn, that creates some of the most drama on the waves.

The final is the championship round for the final eight teams. It consists of a rescue-scenario paddle Pick-Up and a Doubles Row finale.

The first-place prize has yet to be announced, but Red Bull is calling it the biggest prize package of cash and products for any surf lifesaving event in the country.

“Everybody gets excited about it,” said Hannon. “It’s a really great time. You meet different people, you meet patrols from out of state, and it’s much more publicized than any other race. It’s a great atmosphere, and you want your people to experience it.”

Red Bull Surf & Rescue goes down in front of the Landshark Bar at Resorts Casino. The event is free for spectators.

— Jon Coen

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.