On vigilant watch. On guard. On the stand. On their toes.
That is the job for a Sea Colony Beach Patrol lifeguard from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through June 16 and from Sept. 5 through Oct. 9, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from June 17 through Sept. 4.
While virtually everyone else around them on the beach is cavorting, reading, sleeping, talking or just taking in the magical salt air, the Guardians by the Sea are ready to spring into action.
Even while being cordial to those who approach the lifeguard stand, they are always on alert. Their eyes remain on the swimmers in the surf even while they are sipping and chewing for sustenance during the long beach day.
Someone’s life may be in danger.
And they are the ones who have the ability to rescue swimmers in need.
The Coastal Point is spotlighting one of these Guardians by the Sea with a beach lifeguard feature story each week during the season.
A ‘grand’ rescue
A grandmother and her grandson were stuck in a rip current.
Sea Colony Beach Patrol lifeguard Kelsey Fowler had attempted to verbally direct them to the side.
“But it was so strong that I just went off the stand,” she recalled. “Once I got out there, they were very calm and willing to hold on to the rescue can so that I could bring them in. I continued to talk to them throughout the whole experience and learned that the grandmother used to be a lifeguard herself, but the current was so strong that she was unable to bring herself or her grandson to shore.”
For Kelsey Fowler, that is one of the most important aspects about being a lifeguard.
“In addition to being able to save a person in danger, it also means being attentive, aware and a team player,” said the 5-foot-3 resident of Seaford. “This job is all about how well you’re able to work with other people. We rely on each other when something happens, which makes it extremely important to know who you’re working with and being able to trust them.”
Fowler became a lifeguard at the strong suggestion of her best friend, Amy Venables.
“I’ve been working with her ever since,” said Fowler. “At first, I thought it would just be a summer job that I would do for a couple of years. But after that first summer, I fell in love with the job. Being on the beach, surrounded by all your friends, is one of the best things that you could do. And helping people understand how the beach works will ensure a safe and enjoyable beach day.”
The toughest responsibility of her job occurs when she is still at home.
“Waking up is definitely the toughest part of the job, and the mental and physical responsibilities can take a toll on the body,” noted the six-year veteran of the lifeguard stand. “You must have the ability to push past that and just make every day better than the last one.”
Conversely, her easiest responsibility occurs when she teaches the newer lifeguards how the beach flows. Drawing upon her vast experience, Fowler has been educating the younger lifeguards in some of the skills that she has learned during her career on the beach. That includes the critical communication system that goes into effect whenever a lifeguard realizes there is a person in distress who must be rescued.
In addition to supporting each other, the SCBP patrol members have a strong sense of camaraderie.
“Our patrol is like one huge family, and we are all very close because of the time that we spend together on and off the job,” she said. “Many of the guards live together, making it easier for everyone to be together, in addition to our time on the stand. Each day, we sit with someone new, which makes it easier to get to know everyone and their personalities.”
Fowler credited a number of individuals who have had a profound impact on her career at the beach. She specifically credits her captain, David Griffith, and longtime lieutenant Bailey Noel — who is now a captain with the Delaware State Parks Beach Patrol — with helping to shape her into the lifeguard she is today.
“As a rookie, I was so unsure of myself and nervous about anything that could happen,” said the 21-year-old Fowler, who was born in Nanjing, China. “With the help of my mentors, I have become confident in myself and my abilities related to the beach.”
Fowler emphasized that, as fulfilling as her job on the stand can be, it’s also a very serious occupation that requires a great deal of responsibility.
“I’ve learned so many life lessons over the years, and the biggest one is staying true to yourself and just being confident,” stressed Fowler, who wants to earn her bachelor’s degree. “At first, the job can be mentally tough, and that can discourage someone. But it’s all about balance and perseverance. It gets better, and in the end, it’s all worth it.”
Article by Mike Stern, Coastal Point, July 27, 2023