(July 12, 2019) The Ocean City Beach Patrol began its annual Junior Beach Patrol Academy this week, where children ages 10-17 can receive educational training about beach and ocean safety during four-day or one-day, hands-on sessions.
“Already, five of [the classes] are full,” Capt. Butch Arbin said. “So basically, that means we already have close to 200 kids enrolled for the summer.”
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.
This summer, over 150 youth ages 10-17 have registered for the academy, which takes place during a six-week period. Last year, over 205 children participated, 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 participants gain experience with paddle boards.
“I really liked the lifeguards and I’ve always wanted to be one when I grow up, so this is a great start for me,” said second-year participant Keller Zacharopoulos, 11, of Baltimore. “I like that we get to swim in the ocean and run and perform semaphore, which is very cool.”
The fourth-year is the crew chief level. Students are placed in a leadership position and responsible for taking charge of a younger group, Arbin said.
This year, there is one student who has reached the crew chief level and has completed the program five consecutive years.
“My parents got me into it when I was younger, because they wanted me to be comfortable in the ocean, and it worked ... I love it,” Ocean City resident Atticus Silvaugh, 15, said. “It’s just a great way to be more comfortable in the ocean. It’s a great way to be safer on the beach.”
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.
Silvaugh wants to follow this route.
“I intend on being one of the helpers for this camp next year and then two years from now I hope to be a guard,” he said.
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.
According to Arbin, many junior academy students will go on to become fully licensed surf rescue technicians.
“It really wasn’t originally developed as a recruiting program, but it’s turned out to be a great recruiting program for us,” Arbin said. “One of our crew chiefs, Josh Wilder, started with us when he was 10 years old. He went through junior beach patrol, became an assistant instructor, then became a regular surf rescue technician and assistant crew chief. Now he’s a crew chief, but he’s also a teacher at Stephen Decatur [High School].”
The Junior Beach Patrol Academy is a four-day program and runs from 8-11:30 a.m. every Tuesday through Friday, until 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.
“We started it because it really was about the education part of what we do,” Arbin said. “It really gives kids an idea educationally about the beach, about being safe in the ocean and being safe on the beach.”
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 B: July 16-19
Section C: July 23-26
Section D: July 30-Aug. 2
Section E: Aug. 6-9
Section F: Aug. 13-16
Tuesday through Friday
Section A: July 23-26
Section B: July. 30-Aug. 2
Thursdays, 1-5 p.m.
Section T: July 18
Section U: July 25
Section V: Aug. 1
Section W: Aug. 8
Section X: Aug. 15