Chief lifeguard reports on 2020 season

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SPRING LAKE — Despite many challenges presented with the coronavirus pandemic this summer, the Spring Lake beach patrol had a very successful season at keeping beachgoers safe from COVID-19 as well as from the ocean, Chief Lifeguard Tony Hipsley said at a presentation at last week’s borough council meeting.

Mr. Hipsley reported 106 total water rescues by his lifeguards, as well as 109 medical responses ranging from “bee stings to loss of consciousness and serious spine injuries.”

“It was obviously a challenging but rewarding season for the guards and beach patrol,” Mr. Hipsley said before thanking the mayor and council for their support in a summer that required quick, adaptive leadership. “I do believe that Spring Lake put the safety of its patrons above everything else.”

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This was Mr. Hipsley’s first year as the borough’s chief lifeguard, and he said he tried to introduce new preventative measures to keep swimmers safe. 

“On our approach to managing the beach and managing the water, we took a conservative approach this season,” he said. 

In total there were 25 days over the summer when swimming was restricted to certain areas of the beachfront only, limited to yellow flags. There were also four days of red flags, with no swimming permitted, he said, mostly concentrated around the days where Hurricane Isaias made its way up the coast.

Additionally, Mr. Hipsley has instituted a lifeguard training academy for rookie recruits, in which they train 80 hours, which “far exceeded both the national standard and the local practices of other agencies and we’re very pleased with the results of that,” he said. Veteran guards are also required to train annually as well, he said. 

Mr. Hipsley also reported that the Spring Lake lifeguards have reached out to enhance their relationships with neighboring lifeguard agencies. This summer, Spring Lake hosted a training event with guards from Sea Girt, Belmar and Manasquan in conjunction with local police and fire departments.

“On the whole, we thought it was a successful season. I was pleased with the progress we made and we definitely had an emphasis on safety and considering dealing with the pandemic and all those issues I thought we did well,” Mr. Hipsley said.

Couccilman Brendan Judge praised Mr. Hipsley for all of his work in a difficult season at the beach, and said he thought this year residents have never felt safer going into the ocean.

“I think you did a tremendous job this year,” Councilman Judge said to Mr. Hipsley. “I don’t think the swimming public has ever felt safer than this year.”

Mr. Judge said that the public definitely took notice of some new safety measures put in place by the guards this year on rougher water days, such as having “water patrols” where lifeguards would stand ready knee-deep in water in 30 minute shifts.

“I’m sure you have a lot more rescue than your numbers there” not accounted for from this preventative measure, he said.

Spring Lake Mayor Jennifer Naughton also commended Mr. Hipsley for his work.

“This was [Mr. Hipsley’s] first year. If there was ever a challenging first year to be in a new position at the beachfront, this is the year,” Mayor Naughton said. “He had quite a test in front of him and he was integral part of the success of the beachfront this year, particularly the safety of the neighbors and the swimmers … Thank you, I can’t imagine that anyone would have done a better job than you did.”

The next borough council meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 423 Warren Ave.

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