By Lauren Wanko
Belmar lifeguards this morning prepared for swimmers who are willing to brave the ocean despite warnings of dangerous rip currents.
“We have more lifeguards on than usual because of the holiday weekend and we’re directing the public to stay away from those rip currents. When our lifeguards see them develop, we tell the people to get away from those areas,” said Belmar Beach Patrol Lifeguard Supervisor Ray Elms.
“They are very dangerous. I fear there it could result in some drownings along the coast this weekend unless people take heed,” said State Climatologist David Robinson.
Elms says his team isn’t used to seeing this many rip currents this early in the season, but the rough surf from Hurricane Arthur, which is about 150 miles off the Jersey coast, is causing the rips.
“You can definitely tell something’s kinda brewing out there,” said Monroe Township resident Gregory MacDonald.
Surfer MacDonald couldn’t wait to get in the water.
“I was looking forward to it with rain and inclement weather. It kinda helps out because the beach is empty. So people don’t want to come down so more waves to have fun on,” MacDonald said.
But swimmer Larry Bergmayer was a bit more cautious.
“If I feel it. I’m getting out. I mean, I respect the water. If I feel even a tug, I’m getting out,” Belmar resident Bergmayer said.
“Not that strong a swimmer. I’m 65 years old. I’ll stay right about to my knees,” said John Ingram of Burlington.
One couple practically had the entire beach to themselves.
“It feels great. I feel like I’m on a VIP island here,” said Denice Ingram.
Denice Ingram this morning toyed with the idea of going for a swim.
“Hopefully with all these lifeguards, they have nothing to do, they’ll come and get me. That would be the highlight of my life,” she said.
The lifeguards say if you ever get caught in a rip, don’t panic and don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore.
“Once you get out of that rip current you’ll feel the current dissipate and if you’re a decent swimmer you can probably get in yourself but the lifeguards will be there to help you, because they’re pretty good at spotting that,” Elms said.
“Generally we try to keep people out of those areas, try to be more preventative, then, you know, being a hero,” said Belmar Beach Patrol Lifeguard Mike Dahoug.
Elmer recommends beachgoers only swim near lifeguards, heed their warnings and don’t swim alone or at night. Today’s breaking waves are expected to reach about six feet.
“It’s not just the height of the surf. It’s the roughness of the surf. It will be a very angry ocean and any mariners headed out to sea, they should perhaps delay their plans,” Robinson said.
Saturday and Sunday are expected to be picture-perfect beach days. But Robinson says the rip current threat will remain throughout the holiday weekend.
“Because the ocean takes a while to calm down and we’ve also upset that offshore sandbar distribution,” he said.
“We’re expecting big crowds so the lifeguards will be on their toes,” said Elms.
Elms insists throughout the holiday weekend, swimmers shouldn’t let their guard down either.