LBI Officials Look To Enlist Surfers In Lifesaving After Rash Of Jersey Shore Drownings

HARVEY CEDARS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — More than a dozen people drowned this summer at the Jersey Shore — all while lifeguards were not on duty. Now, a Long Beach Island training officer is campaigning for an island-wide rescue system using local watermen.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, summer may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the ocean is closed.

Stephanie Karl’s home in Harvey Cedars looks out onto the beach that they visit year round.

“Few times had to call to say we think someone might be hurt or drowning,” she said.

Barnegat Light Fire Company and Beach Patrol Training Officer Bob Selfridge said there are not enough water rescue teams to cover the 18 mile Island. He is proposing training surfers to be year round rescuers.

“Right now we have guys in the ocean who can swim, paddle, know ocean rip currents, know waves, we just need to give them a little bit of training,” he said.

In September, when the water is still warm, and lifeguards are off duty, surfers could be the first line of defense.

Their priority — get a flotation device, aka a surfboard to someone struggling ASAP.

“I think it’s definitely a smart idea for people to be equipped with training,” Richard Cefalu said.

Some of the surfers said they’re interested in volunteering, but warned people against taking a dip in the off-season — the water gets rougher in the fall.

“It’s very dangerous. Some serious stuff goes on out there,” Seth Queen said.

The surfing volunteers would be given the same app on their phones that fire and police have.

“We all have pagers now, or phones set up as pagers, a system called active 911 gives location and GPS to the location,” Selfridge said.

He said it could cut down on response times and create a more efficient communication system island wide.

Selfridge plans to ask surfers to volunteer at a competition on LBI in October.

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