I sat on a Belmar beach a few days ago and watched the lifeguards perform three rescues during low tide. In past summers, I would see three rescues all summer. These all happened in one day. The day before that, I saw two.
Each time, I prayed for a positive outcome. Once I saw that the rescue was a success, I lectured my kids on ocean safety. Again. I feel like I am starting to sound like a broken record.
“See? This is why you should always swim by a lifeguard.”
“If you feel yourself getting pulled out, wave for help. Don’t freak out.”
"You can't wave for help if you're not swimming by a lifeguard."
“If you get stuck, swim parallel to the shore.”
I saw the confused look in their eyes at that phrase.
For people who are six, eight and 10, the phrase “parallel to the shore” can be confusing. So I explain it by saying, “Swim over towards the jetty not towards the beach.” I got some nods on that. It seems to make more sense to them.
My goal is to brainwash my kids enough now so that when they get to the age where I am not always with them and they are more often with their friends, my words of advice will be so ingrained in their brains that it will translate into their actions.
I know that many young adults, such as the two people who died in the ocean on June 20 – the same day I saw the three successful rescues, feel a sense of invincibility. I felt the same way. Some of my friends reading this will remember well when we were 18 to 21 years old, we went swimming
in the ocean on unguarded beaches many times. Often at night. What were we thinking? We obviously weren’t. We were lucky that nothing tragic ever happened. We were just lucky. Others now, not so much.
It breaks my heart when I hear or read negative comments on the recent ocean deaths. I know there are many things that led to these tragedies, including the fact that our beaches are not free. Despite all of that, behind every single one of these deaths is a mother who is grieving the loss of her child. Before we judge the actions of someone most of us have never met, remember that behind the story there’s a mother who will never hug her child again.
I may be preaching to the choir, but if my column can stop one person from swimming on an unguarded beach, can make one person think twice before going out a little too far into the ocean, then I will have done my job as a writer.
Let us brainwash out kids that they simply must swim by a lifeguard. No exceptions.
For more information on water safety and rip currents, please
take a look at the National Weather Service's Rip Current Page.