Courtesy of Red Bull Media Room
Lifeguards competed for bragging rights in Atlantic City for Red Bull Surf and Rescue 2017.
Not everyone leaves Atlantic City a winner.
Sure, there’s the rare tale of the guy who beats the house. But there are far more stories of those who put it all on black and lost their shirt. But on Tuesday night, July 18, had you put all your chips on the Longport Beach Patrol team, you’d have felt pretty good. For the second year in a row, this squad of Max Mittelman, Taylor Phy, John Tepper and Tim Schwegman made the short drive home with a new jet ski, trailer, sled, and a $2,500 check for acing Red Bull Surf and Rescue.
This third annual challenge for ultimate competitive lifeguard bragging rights was something of a milestone as the field was expanded to patrols from New York to Virginia Beach, with 48 hungry Mid Atlantic teams descending on the famed beach at Mississippi Ave. It was a quintessential New Jersey Shore evening, warm with a slight onshore breeze, a one to two-foot swell, and that feeling of electricity emanating from the boardwalk, across the beach and right into the contest zone.
The unique format includes four rounds, each of which was single elimination, to eventually whittle the field down to the eight top squads.
From the start, some of the newcomers looked poised to dominate. In the first round’s 25-meter swim relay, Long Beach and Riis Park, both of New York, took the top two spots. Then Riis Park jumped out to a huge lead in the second round’s 450-meter paddle relay. “Beach patrol training is a relatively new culture to Riis Park,” said Tom O’Neill, the 27-year-old anchor, “We’ve just been building it up since I was a teenager and today we have great swimmers and paddlers. This event is something that we put a lot of effort into.” But by the end of the paddle, Ocean City had won Round Two.
The third round’s run-run-row relay (two quarter-mile runs and a 700-meter doubles row) resulted in a frenzied oar carnage with most of the 16 boats careening off each other in the surf as one rower from each boat sprinted toward the finish. And all that local rowing experience was apparent, with the traditional South Jersey powerhouse teams coming out on top. The final eight standing were all from the Garden State – three from Ocean City, Ship Bottom, two squads from Sea Girt including the 2015 winner, perennial powerhouse Harvey Cedars, and the defending champs from Longport.
The final round was a medley that put the full range of lifeguard skills to the test – swim, paddle, and row – and it proved to be a thrill for the masses of spectators who packed the Atlantic City beach. The last leg was a full barn burner. But in the end, Longport, with the help of recent Cape May SuperAthalon Champ, Tim Schwegman, would come from third place at the start of the row to enjoy the big victory again.
“We’ve all been focused on this for a full year. It’s great to come back and repeat,” said Longport’s Max Mittelman, “This is the same squad we had last year and we’re all at the point in our lives where we can keep training and improving. I firmly believe that New Jersey has the best lifeguards in the country and that showed here today. You had an all-Jersey final and we’re ready to go at all times.”