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Nearly half of state park lifeguards will be working on Long Island

Lifeguards at Jones Beach State Park's Central Mall

Lifeguards at Jones Beach State Park's Central Mall on Sept. 17, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Once again, nearly half of all state park lifeguards this summer will be stationed on Long Island, officials said, where every summer they prove their worth.

“Last year, Long Island lifeguards made more than 3,200 rescues,” said Randy Simons, a spokesman for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Across the state, about 1,000 men and women will be tapped to keep swimmers safe; Long Island state parks will have from 470 to 477 of them, Simons said.

“We are pretty consistent in the number of lifeguards we need across our system and on Long Island every year,” he said.

Long Island lifeguards, who watch over swimmers in oceans, bays and pools, often return many years in a row, limiting openings to perhaps 10 percent or less of their ranks.

“I would say on average 30 to 40 new lifeguards could be hired this year,” said Derek Angermaier, president of the Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps, the union whose members also work at Robert Moses, Heckscher, Sunken Meadow, Hither Hills, Orient Point Beach and Montauk Down.

The state, he said, should add more Long Island lifeguards because nor’easters have narrowed some of the beaches, which means people spread out farther, making it harder for the lifeguards to monitor them. And some even venture into the water outside guarded areas.

“I’m a pretty reasonable guy. I’d love to have 100 more, but when I speak with management, they may hire about 30; we would love to hire about 50 lifeguards,” Angermaier said.

Simons dismissed concerns about erosion pushing parkgoers into more distant stretches.

“There is sufficient beachfront sand for normal water safety operations and there is always natural replenishment of sand during the spring and summer,” he said.

Simons added: “We are very confident that our lifeguard recruitment process will meet the safety and needs of our visitors.”

Long Island’s 31 state parks were visited by about 751,000 more people in 2017 than the year before, according to the state parks office. And Jones Beach was again the state’s most-visited park, drawing 5.95 million people, a 1 percent increase, and trailing only Niagara Falls, the data showed.

Long Island state park lifeguards must let the union know by the end of this month whether they wish to spend another summer at pools, bays and oceans, Angermaier said.

The test, however, which includes swimming and running in sand, is increasingly competitive as the pool of recruits has shifted.

“My dad, when he took the test in the 1960s, a lot of the lifeguards were wrestlers,” he said.

Now, “A lot of high school [swimming] coaches will recommend that their students and teams [try out], I think that’s what increased competitive nature of the test in recent years,” Angermaier said.

Some of these swimmers compete in NCAA Division 1; some have won college scholarships based on their strokes.

The lifeguard test varies, depending on the weather and the conditions of the beach and ocean. This year’s test is June 10, according to the union’s website, which lays out qualifying procedures.

If, for example, the shoreline is quite slanted or has “a lot of scalloping, dips and valleys,” the run might be shorter, Angermaier said.

And would-be lifeguards should be prepared for a rather cold Atlantic.

“I can remember the initial plunge in the ocean; it can be quite a shock, you really have to focus and block that out,” he said.

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