By Zach Solon | May 28, 2021 at 9:18 PM EDT – Updated May 28 at 10:32 PM
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Lifeguard stands are spaced along the beaches in New Hanover County, and ocean rescue officials say knowing where to find a lifeguard is essential for safe swimming, especially with the rip current risk this weekend in the Cape Fear region.
“Swim near a lifeguard. They’re trying to spot rip currents, things like that,” said Sam Proffitt, Captain of Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue. “The novice viewer probably would have a difficult time spotting a rip current.”
Guards returned to stands in Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach Friday to kick off the start of summer swim season, but other parts of the country are facing a shortage of lifeguards amid hiring challenges. These two New Hanover County beaches have strong staffing numbers; however, thanks to a large number of returning guards.
“With our program we got really lucky, most of our guards are at a minimum about three-year guards so they usually come back,” said Tony Wallace, Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue captain. “For us, I think we brought on, I think, 12 new rookies this year, but mostly everybody we have are returning guards, which saved us from, I guess, getting the shortage of guards.”
With rip currents swirling in the Atlantic across southeastern North Carolina beaches, guards had to jump into action early this morning as swimmers took to the water on a hot day.
“We do keep track of every incident,” said Proffitt. “So far we’re at eight rescues this morning and it’s 11:00 a.m.”
In Carolina Beach, Wallace says they are averaging about eight rescues per day, some of which are related to rip currents.
Officials say it is best to know where lifeguards are stationed so you can see them and clear a path for them to get to an emergency or person in distress.
“One of the main problems that we have is keeping our emergency lanes open where we can travel up and down the beach safely,” said Wallace. “That gives us more speed to get to an incident that’s happening without having to stop.”
Rescue officials say rip currents can change and move so it is important to pay attention to flags posted around the beach and ask the lifeguards nearby whether or not it is safe to swim.
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