By Briana Vannozzi
“The waves don’t look that bad, but they will knock you around,” said Manasquan resident Doug Cleary.
Hazard warnings along the Jersey Shore this week. Dangerous rip currents with swells up to four feet are churning just beneath that cool blue water.
“Swell coming in from the different tropical depressions and Gaston right now, which is about 1,000 miles out but we’re still getting a ground swell from that,” said Sea Girt Beach Patrol Beach Manager Jim Freda.
In Sea Girt, lifeguards have been preparing for storm effects since last week — running water drills, practicing with jet skis to pull victims out of choppy water.
“With the rip current, the water when it goes back to the beach, it funnels through a very small area. It’s kind of like putting your finger over a garden hose. When the water funnels through a very small area, the velocity increases and force increases and it increases enough that it’s going to be able to carry you out towards sea,” Freda said.
“Everyone wants to go in the water. With the swell that we have right now, the water is warm so that’s not going to chase anyone out. You sometimes, we get a cold water storm and that’s not the case this weekend so we’re going to have to be on top of things. There certainly will be, if it stays like it is right now, water restrictions during the course of the week,” said Sea Girt Beach Patrol Lieutenant Matt Harmon.
Tide and rip current signs are posted, along with warning flags.
“Rip currents don’t pull you under. Rip currents pull you out. What makes you go under is not knowing how to swim. So, if you’re caught in a rip current, you should just relax and let it take you out,” Freda said.
Then wave for help and swim parallel to the beach.
“Even in a calm summer, which this has been, we’ve had a couple days where the surf picked up. We had, I would say, a couple weeks ago we were in the water up to 30 to 40 times on a given day,” Harmon said.
“I didn’t last long. I got hit by two waves. I got pulled out and I just went in. My bathing suit is full of sand right now, it’s that rough,” said Jim Dillon of Sea Girt.
“Usually during the week we have a 40- to 45-man roster and then maybe 50 on the weekends,” said Ray Elms, lifeguard supervisor in Belmar.
In Belmar, beach tourism balloons up to 60,000 people during the summer, especially on a holiday. Dozens of rescues were made here earlier this summer, too.
“The most important thing, without a doubt, is to swim in front of a lifeguard. Our lifeguards here in Belmar are professional and they’re well trained. There’s nothing they cannot manage or handle but if they don’t see you and you’re not in front of them, that makes it more dangerous for you, the swimmer,” said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
“I told my friend over here, I go, ‘I’m done.’ I was in for like four or five minutes. But it was refreshing, it’s fun. You get kicked around. Mother Nature at its best,” Dillon said.
So the number one message for the rest of this week and heading into the holiday weekend — check in with the lifeguards, especially if you’re a first time visitor to the beach. Pay attention to the tides, the warnings and the flags.