The sun was shining on the East Hampton Town men on their home beach Thursday, July 25.
The A Team won the rescue relay and the run-swim-run relay, and placed second in the distance swim, landline rescue, and sprint relay, to take a one-point win over Smith Point, 56-55, in the 33rd annual Main Beach Lifeguard Tournament.
“East Hampton always battles with Smith Point, but Jones Beach could come up as strong team, too,” said chief of the East Hampton Town lifeguards, John Ryan Sr. “Smith Point has won our tournament more times than we have.”
Smith Point placed first in the distance run, landline rescue, sprint relay, and beach flags. Jones Beach placed third overall with 49.5 points, taking first in the distance swim and second in the rescue and run-swim-run relays.
“It’s a nice night,” Ryan said. “It’s a wonderful experience to watch. It takes a lot of effort, but we’re good at it.”
Smith Point’s women though snagged first again this year, but did so this time in historic fashion, with wins in every single event.
“It’s an amazing thing,” Ryan said. “They came in with a full team of 12 and won all seven events. It’s unique, very unique. That’s a great crew down there.”
The East Hampton Town women’s A Team took second, coming runner-up in the distance swim, distance run, run-swim-run relay, and beach flags.
As co-founder of the Hampton Lifeguard Association — who also coordinates junior training, and heads the education committee for the Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad — Ryan said what he loves most is the friendship lifeguarding brings. For him, it’s also been all in the family. Of his nine kids, seven have been heavily involved in lifeguarding and teaching, with his girls going on to offer swim lessons. He was also instrumental in the formation of the East Hampton Hurricanes swim team.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” Ryan said. “Some girls play basketball, some boys football, but the Hurricanes swim team has 100 kids age six to 18. It’s terrific. The parents are much more involved with the team in a very supportive way. We stick together, and it’s nice.”
The former chair of the Water Safety Committee, who said the water at Main Beach drifts west from Spain making it colder, but cleaner, said the ocean has always felt like home.
“I’ve always felt comfortable on it,” he said. “Lifeguarding is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. I like the responsibility, and this is a beautiful place to be a lifeguard, too. Our beach is remote here. It’s pretty special.”