Earlier this month, the five-member lifeguard team from Sandy Point State Park won the annual state competition. It was the third time in the past five years that the Anne Arundel County park's lifeguard team won. Ranger Mike Travers, in his second year at Sandy Point, spoke to The Sun about the competition and about the tragedy that occurred at the park July 4.
Obviously it's a fun event, but is there a sense of pride involved in being part of the team that represents Sandy Point and winning the event?
Very much. The lifeguards take it pretty seriously. They all want to go, but they all do a good job of who's going to stay behind and guard the beach at Sandy Point.
In having events that are actually part of their daily responsibilities, is the lifeguard competition pretty realistic without a sense of imminent danger?
There isn't that sense of danger or urgency, but all of the events are designed around skills that the park service and the various different parks consider to be an important part of lifeguarding. It will change from park to park because each of our waterfronts is different. Last year it was held at Assateague; there was paddleboarding. This year, at Deep Creek, there was kayaking. They use different equipment to accomplish the state goals in a different environment.
Given that we are coming to the end of the summer, do lifeguards have to fight fatigue at this point and do they have to pay special attention?
Pretty much between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, that is one of our bigger focuses. We do our daily physical and skills training. We try to find ways of mixing it up, keep everyone fresh. The guard competition is a big part of that. It's something to look forward to before the absolute end of the summer.
There was a drowning at Sandy Point on the Fourth of July. Does a tragedy such as this leave a lasting mark on the summer?
To an extent, yes. Even though the incident we had on the Fourth of July happened well before they were on duty, once it happened, we started calling them all in and they responded much more like professional firefighters or police officers or an ambulance crew much more like high school and college students. Even though they weren't there, it was definitely an event that has continued to stay in our minds. It's not dominating it, but it's something that we're always aware of.
What qualifications will you look at for next summer's candidates, and how many will you be looking for?
Next summer we're definitely going to be looking for at least 10 lifeguards total; due to the events of the summer, we may be increasing our staff. The biggest qualities we're looking for are lifeguard certification, some history of teamwork either through sports or a social club or other employment, and just a very open attitude. They've got to be very, very comfortable having the public come up to them and have a variety of questions from simple park rules and regulations to directions to park facilities to actual emergencies.