NJ lifeguard crews still not in full force for 2019
Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, but summer hasn't yet started for lifeguard crews along the Jersey Shore.
Head to the beach on a weekday and you'll likely be hitting the water at your own risk. Guards are only on weekend duty until the middle of June or later in most coastal towns, where hiring and testing may still be underway ahead of the summer rush.
"We open up full time on June 15th," said Joe Bongiovanni, beach safety supervisor for Asbury Park. "At that time we should be about 95% staffed."
Bongiovanni said the city is still looking for some help to cover the busiest stretches of summer and fill the gaps left by college students who head back to school in the middle of August. The beach's patronage increases by more than 100% on weekends.
"Right now we're running a skeleton crew to get us up and running for the summer season of 2019," said Randy Townsend, chief of beach patrol in Harvey Cedars.
The Long Island Beach borough won't start manning all 13 beaches until Father's Day weekend, Townsend said. Just one has seven-day watch right now.
Officials urge shore visitors only to swim when and where lifeguards are present.
Along 1.3 miles of beachfront, Belmar will have close to 70 lifeguards on duty when the season fully launches later this month. For now, though, guards are mainly on the beach to perform maintenance duties, but they'll be on alert for any water emergencies.
"Starting June 15, we'll have everyone on duty up until Labor Day weekend. That will be 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and we're on duty from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays," said Belmar's chief lifeguard, Harry Harsin.
Full lifeguard crews come on a bit later in Wildwood Crest, where Beach Patrol Chief Bud Johnson says they're still in the process of testing both returning lifeguards and new candidates.
"Our staffing need this year is about 16," Johnson said.
On June 1 and 2, 30 lifeguards scanned the waters along the Crest beach. That count will double to about 60 come July 1.
If you live or stay in the area and are interested in helping the crew this summer, the next round of testing is scheduled for Satuday at the Von Savage pool at 8 a.m.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.