Turnout for East Hampton Town’s junior lifeguard and lifeguard training programs, which kicked off on March 5, was on the low side. About a hundred kids and teens had signed up, and 75 came for the youth evaluation and training, while only eight came for the first session of lifeguard training.
It was a little concerning, said John Ryan Jr., who oversees the program, “because there are plenty of lifeguard jobs out here and we need them. Everyone was given a homework assignment when they left to reach out to their friends. It’s time to get ready for the summer and secure a job on one of the beaches.”
The town will again need as many as 40 lifeguards, he said. Last year, the town was short by 10 as it faced competition with private clubs, East Hampton Village, and other entities to attract beach staff. There is always turnover year-to-year as college-age lifeguards graduate and leave the South Fork, moving on to other communities and jobs.
The first five weeks of lifeguard training focus on skills and conditioning. “This is where we get their strokes up to par,” Ryan said. The full course, which begins the week after Easter, certifies a lifeguard for stillwater work, including pools and bays. The ocean-beach training program begins three weeks after that.
“Even if you want to be an ocean lifeguard, you should get stillwater certified, because it’ll get you in shape for the ocean training,” he said. “If you haven’t been swimming all winter, the last thing you want to do is jump into the ocean. It’s in the 50s — it’s cold!”
As far as the juniors go, the 75 kids who showed up “may seem like a lot, but some are new. They don’t just come in and qualify in one day,” Ryan said. “They have to be evaluated, pretested, and then we start to look at their freestyle and their breathing. If they’re having trouble, we need to fix that.”
But the good news, he said, is that there’s still time to jump into the pool at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter for the training sessions. The juniors (ages 9 to 16) get free coaching from 1 to 1:45 or 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays through June 18, but may also test out of the training before then. Those who have taken part in program in the past need only pass a pool swim test. The full lifeguard training sessions (ages 15 and up) start at 2:30 and cost $50 for the duration of the program, which ends April 9.
The free Nipper Guard program, for kids who will be 6 to 8 years old by July 1, starts April 16.Sign-up details for all programs are online at bit.ly/3Yxdjt2.
“We never turn anybody away. We want them to succeed,” Ryan said. “That’s the reason for the evaluation and training starting in March. When they make the effort, they’re going to succeed in one way or another, and that does a lot for an individual. . . . When they see that success, they go into the program with a better outlook.”