Town of Hempstead lifeguard Gabby McIntyre keeps a watchful eye...

Town of Hempstead lifeguard Gabby McIntyre keeps a watchful eye on the waters at Lido Beach Town Park on Wednesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Island beaches are hoping to avoid a lifeguard shortage that has plagued some Nassau and Suffolk beaches in the waning days of previous summers.

An increase in pay may help retain lifeguards at state parks and attract more to be certified by passing the state’s exam, officials said. The state parks lifeguard certification exam will be held at 7:30 a.m. on June 11 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood and at Jones Beach. Qualified participants can sign up until June 9 on the state parks website.

State parks need about 500 lifeguards to maintain seven beaches and two pools from Jones Beach to Montauk, said Long Island Regional Director George Gorman. Long Island state parks, including Robert Moses State Park and Sunken Meadow State Park on the North Shore, hired 140 additional lifeguards last year to meet the demand.

“Last year we hired exactly as many as we needed and we usually like to hire a buffer for a few extra we may lose over the summer returning to school,” Gorman said. “If a lifeguard was not able to work that day, we may have had to delay reopening pools for lifeguards to get there.”

Officials hope lifeguards will be enticed to return after Gov. Kathy Hochul increased starting pay by 21% last year from about $18 to $22 per hour. Lifeguards also can receive raises of between 5% and 30% after two years on the job.   

Although other parts of the state lowered the age requirement to 15, Long Island state parks still require lifeguards who work on ocean beaches to be at least 17.

The Nassau County Health Department lowered its certification course to age 15 at county pools.

Suffolk County beaches are appropriately staffed and operating as normal, county officials said. 

Long Beach was hit by the nationwide lifeguard shortage last year and had to suspend swimming at eight beaches in late August when many lifeguards returned to school.

Town of Hempstead lifeguards at Lido Beach Town Park on...

Town of Hempstead lifeguards at Lido Beach Town Park on Wednesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Beach beaches are staffed by lifeguards on weekends until June 24, when they will be staffed daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Swimming is prohibited when lifeguards are not on duty.

The city hopes that a new contract ratified by the lifeguard union will entice summer lifeguards, who will be paid $20 per hour. Lifeguards must be at least 16 and certified. The city is holding a testing Sunday at 7:30 a.m. at the Recreation Center pool.

Hempstead Town officials, whose lifeguards patrol Point Lookout, Lido Beach, Nickerson Beach and East Atlantic Beach, say they do not anticipate a shortage.

The town attributes maintaining its staffing to its junior lifeguard program, which trains about 250 lifeguards from age 8 to 15 when they graduate to patrol beaches. The town also does year-round certification to train up to 600 summer lifeguards, Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said.

Hempstead employs about 185 lifeguards on its beaches and about 350 lifeguards at dozens of town pools. The state allowed the town to lower the age for pool lifeguards to 15 to alleviate the burden, Clavin said. The town will open its pools June 16.

Lifeguards also are trained to spot sharks, use drones and operate water scooters.

 "We have normal pay increases for returning lifeguards and didn’t have to resort to any additional pay. Last year we were fully operational," Clavin said.

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