Lifeguards warn of after-hours swimming
When we're not here, stay out of the water.
That's the warning from lifeguards along the Jersey coastline, hoping to eliminate the threat of injuries or casualties at unguarded beaches.
While swimming after hours, or before hours, is not illegal, beachgoers are encouraged to stay on land when there's no one watching their every move.
Bud Johnson, chief of the beach patrol in Wildwood Crest, said each day around 5:30 p.m., the lifeguards let the bathers know they're headed home, and they won't leave until all swimmers are out of the water.
But after that, swimmers can re-enter at their own risk.
"Our advice is: no lifeguard, no swim," Johnson said. "You shouldn't swim without a lifeguard on duty, especially in the ocean."
Those who choose to swim anyway, though, should do so with a partner or a group of people, he said.
According to Johnson, even the best swimmers can't fight the power of the ocean.
"You have to respect it," he said. "It might look nice and calm up on top, but once you get in there, you may run into some difficulty and that could even be at waist-deep water. The next thing you know you're being pulled out to sea."
Not everyone obeys the rules, and according to Johnson, the Wildwoods have been the site of some tragic drownings in the hours when lifeguards are off duty.
Walter Wall, the beach manager for Manasquan, said his borough has had "occasional emergencies" due to off-hours swimming, but "nothing serious."
Depending on the water conditions, Manasquan lifeguards will either force everyone out of the ocean at the end of their shift, or announce their departure.
"If a swimmer goes in, they've got to realize it's at their own risk," Wall said. "The sea is bigger than they are."