(July 6, 2018) The Ocean City Beach Patrol will present its annual Junior Beach Patrol Academy starting Tuesday, July 10, where children ages 10-17 will receive educational training about beach and ocean safety during four-day or one-day hands-on sessions.
“We wanted to get young people to understand more about beach and ocean safety from a young age,” said Ocean City Beach Patrol Lt. Ward Kovacs, director of the academy. “It’s become a really big part of our future of recruiting. A lot of people who go through the program become lifeguards.”
The academy started in 1992 and has prepared a number of lifeguards, known as surf rescue technicians, and five current crew chiefs. The academy is used to fulfill the education portion of the beach patrol’s three-part mission – education, prevention and intervention.
“We originally started the academy to teach beach safety and as a recruiting tool,” Kovacs said. “The number [already registered] so far is higher than it was at this point last year.”
This summer, over 200 youth ages 10-17 have registered for the academy, which takes place during a six-week period. Last year, the program taught over 205 children, making it the busiest year in academy history.
Depending on their age, participants can complete a one-week session or choose to finish multiple levels all in one summer. There are four regular levels, and one paid position. In any given session, half of the participants are residents and the others come from all over the United States and Canada.
First-year Junior Beach Patrol Academy participants learn about rescue buoys, safety information and semaphore, otherwise known as flag communication. Second-year students study landline rescues and third-year students gain experience with paddleboards, Kovacs said.
“I love the ocean and I love the beach,” Kovacs said. “The part I enjoy the most is watching [them] from day one, watching them gain their comfort level in the ocean and enjoying it safely, because that’s always been a passion of mine. I get to share that and watching them grow into themselves is rewarding.”
The fourth year is the crew chief level. Students are placed in a leadership position and responsible for taking charge of a younger group, he said.
After completing these levels, participants can apply for a fifth, paid position as a junior beach patrol assistant instructor. Some students join the Ocean City Beach Patrol at 17 years old.
During each academy, on the final day are competitions through an obstacle course with relays that include running, swimming and paddle boarding in addition to a graduation ceremony.
Several afternoon camps will take place to accommodate the growing number of participants and there will be six one-day sessions on Thursday afternoons this year.
“[One-day sessions] are for the people who aren’t sure they want to do the whole program or not,” Kovacs said. “They can try it out in the one-day session.”
The Junior Beach Patrol Academy is a four-day program and runs from 8-11:30 a.m. every Tuesday through Friday, July 10 through Aug. 18. Participants should report to the Beach Patrol Headquarters on Talbot Street at 7:45 a.m. for the first day of camp. The six Thursday sessions take place from 1-5 p.m. each week, and participants should arrive at headquarters by 12:45 p.m. Children ages 10-17 must know how to swim to participate in the academy.
“I like to run into the different people that had gone through the program,” Kovacs said. “I run into them all winter long and it’s just fun to catch up with the kids and watch them grow in their comfort level in the water. Some of the local ones I get to keep in touch with through the years and it’s good to hear about their successes in school.
“They try to apply what they learn in junior beach patrol and we encourage them to do that,” he continued. “When they have a project in school they might do a study on rip currents for science projects, or if they have a writing program they might write about their experience in the beach patrol program.”
To sign up for the weekly camp or a Thursday session, visit www.oceancitymd.gov/oc/departments/recreation-parks/camps/jr-beach-patrol or call Ocean City Recreation and Parks at 410-250-0125.
The Junior Beach Patrol Program costs $108 for Ocean City residents and $130 for non-residents with Thursday’s sessions costing $30 and $35.
Junior Beach Patrol Academy Schedule
Tuesday through Friday
Section A: July 10–13
Section B: July 17–20
Section C: July 24–27
Section D: July 31–Aug. 3
Section E: Aug. 7–10
Section F: Aug. 14–17
Tuesday through Friday
Section A: July 24–27
Section B: July. 31–Aug. 3
Thursdays, 1-5 p.m.
Section S: July 12
Section T: July 19
Section U: July 26
Section V: Aug. 2
Section W: Aug. 9
Section X: Aug. 16