(July 19, 2019) Ocean City Beach Patrol members will compete as individuals and teams during the 26th annual Pizza Tugo’s Iron Guard competition, this Saturday.
The event to determine the best of the best will begin at 6:30 p.m. on 130th Street. Guards will swim 1,000 meters, run two miles and paddle 2,000 meters.
“It’s a great opportunity for our lifeguards to showcase their talents at no cost to them,” Iron Guard Organizer Sgt. Jeff Brabitz said.
Brabitz said lifeguards must train and be prepared for the event.
“It’s really a big bragging right for beach patrol, to show that you’re the overall best swimmer, paddler and runner,” Brabitz said.
Wes Smith, former Ocean City Beach Patrol lieutenant, started the Iron Guard event 26 years ago as a friendly competition for the lifeguards.
Smith based the competition off Sgt. David Griffith’s workouts, who now teaches at the University of Miami.
After the first year of competition, Smith wrote the “Iron Guard Legend.”
“I based the story on [Griffith] being this legendary lifeguard,” Smith said. “The triathlon was basically the same distance he would run and swim everyday.”
According to Smith’s fictional story, two lifeguards who were believed to be the first guards in the Delmarva area – “Katino Griffey” from Ocean City and “Smitty McGee” from Delaware – wanted to see who was the best lifeguard.
They challenged each other on a particularly foggy day to a mile swim, a two-mile run and a mile paddle.
The two were neck-and-neck by the end of the race. It was so close, the crowd could not determine the winner.
They anxiously waited for the two guards to emerge from the fog, but they did not and were not seen again that day.
Later in the week, the guards’ boards were found stuck in the sand next to each other off 130th Street to mark their safe return. The legend states that the two were rescued by a third unknown guard, known as “the Iron Guard.”
“I wrote it to be funny and share it with the guards,” Smith said. “It was fictional.”
Kristin Joson, public education coordinator for the beach patrol, sees the annual competition as a time for the lifeguards to focus on the necessary skills for their job as a team, if they so choose. They can also compete as individuals.
“It’s a great time for camaraderie amongst the guards,” Joson said. “They get to work together as a team of three.”
In addition, the lifeguards can branch outside of their crew to choose team members.
Joson encourages beachgoers to watch local lifeguards showcase their skills.
“It’s pretty exciting for spectators to see the lifeguards when they’re not on duty and competing with each other,” Joson said.
Pizza Tugo’s will donate pizza, shirts, cups and prizes for the competition.
For more information about the Iron Guard competition, contact Beach Patrol at 301-289-7556 or visit oceancitymd.gov/oc/departments/emergency-services/beach-patrol/.