Ocean City, NJ Beach Patrol Celebrating 125 years this weekend
The Summer of 2023 marks the 125th year that the Ocean City Beach Patrol has been in service watching the beaches of the popular Family Resort town and they are celebrating with a series of events this weekend surrounding the South Jersey Lifeguard Championships, the biggest racing night for Beach Patrols in South Jersey.
The OCBP history goes as far back as 1879 when three of the buildings on the island that would become the resort town known as Ocean City were three U.S. Life-Saving Service Stations. Over the next 20 years, Ocean City grew as a popular vacation resort, there were several high-profile drownings that led the town to hire lifeguards. In 1898, the first lifeguards hired were Joseph Krauss, George Lee, and William Scull, making Ocean City one of the first municipalities in the United States to pay the people who guard the beaches.
I spoke with the President of the Ocean City Beach Patrol Alumni Association Jack Brooks about the history of the OCBP and its impact on the community:
"We are fortunate that for 125 years we have had a lifeguard that documented the history. One thing that people may not know is that over 125 years the OCBP has had just 11 Beach Patrol Captains giving the organization consent leadership. 125 years ago Ocean City quickly recognized the value of lifeguards and that lead to three paid lifeguards. Today the City and beachgoers understand the amount of physical skills, training, and commitment it takes to negate the inherent risks of the ocean and the exemplary reputation of keeping bathers safe in all water conditions. Because of this, every lifeguard past and present takes on the culture of the organization and its mission."
On Thursday, August 10th, there will be a Flag-Raising Ceremony on the Boardwalk at 9 am featuring OCBP alumni who also served in the United States Military, and then at 10:30 am Ocean City Lifeguards along with OCBP Alumni plus Surf Boats will take part in the Ocean City Baby Parade on the Boardwalk. Then on Thursday Night, the public is invited to a free presentation at the Ocean City Free Public Library located at 1735 Simpson Avenue. At 7 pm inside the Chris Maloney Lecture Hall will be the “History of Surf Rescue” Lecture with information about the evolution of surf rescue equipment, beach patrol techniques, and changes in technology from the 1850s to the present day. Before the presentation, you can visit the adjacent Historical Museum which will be open at 6:30 pm for free public viewing of artifacts and pictures that are a part of the Ocean City Beach Patrol's 125-year history.
On Friday, August 11th, the Ocean City Beach Patrol Alumni Association will be distributing lunches for all current OCBP Lifeguards around 12 pm ahead of the big competition later that night. The South Jersey Lifeguard Racing Championships are in Margate this year and the Ocean City Lifeguards will compete against all the of Beach Patrols from Brigantine down to Cape May Point (you can hear live coverage of the South Jersey Lifeguard Championships starting at 6 pm on 973 ESPN with The Locker Room's Billy Schweim, President of the OCBP Alumni Association Jack Brooks, and former Chief of the Longport Beach Patrol Dan Adams).
On Saturday, August 12th, the Chris Maloney Lecture Hall at the Ocean City Free Public Library will host this year's OCBP Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. The annual event will start at 530 pm featuring Rachel Boudart Kyle and Graham Parker receiving the honor of being this year's inductees. Plus the Bob Stowe Award will be presented to Corby Derr and the Derr Family. The 125th Anniversary Celebration and Reunion for the OCBP will be hosted at the American Legion Hall on 46th Street in Ocean City. All current Lifeguards and OCBP Alumni are invited to the evening with Open Bar, Food, a DJ, and special items to celebrate starting at 7 pm.
On Sunday, August 13th, the Schmitt Relays Zone Competition will be at the 12th Street Beach in Ocean City and the event is free for the public to come out to see the OCBP Lifeguards go head-to-head starting at 530 pm. The competition was started by late OCBP Lieutenant Joe Schmitt as a way to generate competition in an "Iron sharpens Iron" style by pitting the Lifeguards from each of the four geographic beach zones.
Jack Brooks, who is also a former Lieutenant for the OCBP, says the lifeguards and their competition today are at a higher level than ever before:
"There have been constant improvements to technology and techniques used in surf rescue. For example, I recall in my younger years when many lifeboats were still wood transitioning to fiberglass and only men were on the patrol. Today there are paddle boards, jet skis and boats. Every patrol has women and men with great athletic abilities. And each lifeguard receives extensive training that includes CPR and first responder training extending the job beyond true surf to general beach safety."
For more information about the Ocean City Beach Patrol Events and Alumni activities, you can visit the OCBP Alumni Facebook page here.