I have sinned on this sandy beat of mine.
Well, I committed two beach misdemeanors.
As you know, I’m into presence on this delightful beat; anything that detracts from presence is a violation of the Sea-Shore-Penal-Law.
I sat enjoying the fantastic summer morn when I decided to do a WORDLE, and then—a crossword.
While doing either, I might have missed an osprey dive-and-snatch or a breaching whale grinning at my inattention.
In my defense, Cheryl gave me the crossword as I went down to the sand. She meant well, but the sandy road to perdition is imprinted with good intentions.
A gull brought me back to shore life by dropping a mussel near me. But the sand was too soft to crack the shell, so he soared again, trying the harder surf-sand.
Gulls drop shellfish onto docks, and boat decks too, often angering boaters. The gulls do what they must to get their morsel of mussel. They’re more than a pretty face, ya know:
The gull was looking for a hard surface, so I hid under hat and umbrella, lest my dome be too tempting.
The gull made me realize that my word games were a dereliction to my post: the eternal sea-show before me.
So, I picked up my camera and strolled the surf and sun.
A fisherman, toting pole and bucket, walked toward me. He smiled when he said, “You took photos of me a long time ago.” I didn’t remember him until he said his name was Alex.
I’ve taken many photos of fishermen, part of my retirement “job,” you know. It’s a bit lighter task than patrolling the subways of New York. The roar of the surf beats the din of roaring steel. And salt air sure beats bladder processed beer.
Alex showed me his catch in the bucket, a twenty-inch fluke. He was delighted when I offered to take his photo with it. Alex is a happy man, happy to be doing what he loves. Aren’t we all? Shouldn’t we all seek that?
When I turned back toward my chair, I saw lifeguards up on their wooden perch waving and pointing to someone far offshore.
Suddenly, the sand exploded in rushing waves of toned bodies.
I saw a struggling swimmer far offshore.
A life-saving rescue, and I was front and center.
Lifeguards sprinted from near and far.
They forged the waves, towing their orange torps:
They ran a line into the sea…
…and pulled swimmer and lifeguard shoreward:
I couldn’t believe my luck. I thought, “I’m finally in the right place at the right time.”
Lifeguards and swimmer, at last on shore…
…where they placed him onto the sand.
I thought, “I have Pulitzer prize stuff in my camera, for sure.” “Well, at least a Newsday nod—certainly a Long Beach Patch headline.”
…the drowning “victim” got up—and dove into the sea.
It was then I realized this was all a training drill.
Well, at least I got good pics of people doing what they do best.
In the past I was lucky to get many more photos and even a couple of videos of our lifeguards:https://leebythesea.me/2020/07/14/keeping-a-sunny-day-sunny/ https://leebythesea.me/2017/07/20/lifeguard/ https://leebythesea.me/2017/07/28/lifeguard-ii/ https://leebythesea.me/2018/06/22/in-the-spring-of-life-death/ https://leebythesea.me/2018/06/27/summer-and-once-again-death/ https://leebythesea.me/2021/08/22/of-lifeguards-and-life/
Lifeguard, Meghan, below, was in an actual oxygen-needed save at Laurelton beach shortly before this rescue drill. A swimmer was really saved—that’s the reason for these drills.
To the uninformed, lifeguards look like they have soft jobs…
…but they are always ready for the real life-saving when a struggling swimmer appears. It’s a heavy responsibility, knowing that your performance may be the difference between the life or death of a child, a mom, a dad. These lifeguards are people of heart, of caring—of training—to make a difference.
Yes, these realistic drills, realistic enough to fool me, make these lifeguards—life guards. It’s training like this, regularly, that prepares lifeguards for those demanding moments.
But their job is also diligence in being watchful and correcting swimmers in potential trouble spots. These proactive actions save lives by preventing emergencies.
Sadly, lifeguards can’t be present all the time. People go into the surf, and onto the jetties when lifeguards are off-duty. They feel adventurous, daring, and “brave.” Sometimes they never go home.
Every year, new young men and women want to serve as lifeguards. But applicants must make the cut. They must pass the strenuous testing, during which they must display physical ability but also the drive that the job requires.
But the training, the vetting, the repeated drills pay off. In Long Beach there have been no drownings, while lifeguards were on duty, for the last seventeen years. We’ll never know how many swimmers went home to their families—rather than not—because of these lifeguards.
Yes, it was another good day for me on my Long Beach beat. The struggling swimmer wasn’t real, but one fluke, and Alex’s happiness was real. You can see it all over his face.