Lessons I Learned From Working for the Ocean City Beach Patrol

This summer I did one of the most difficult things in my life: I worked as a lifeguard for the Ocean City Beach Patrol in Ocean City, Maryland. Ocean City Beach Patrol has the most activity per mile of beach and per guard of any surf rescue organization in the United States. Working on the beach was both physically and mentally exhausting, and I dealt with some of the craziest beach scenarios imaginable. I grew a lot as a person this summer, met a ton of amazing people, and had a summer that I will always remember. Here are some of the important things I learned from working for OCBP:

 

1. Always stay calm, no matter what:

    Whether it was taking care of first aid, dealing with disorderly beach patrons, or making a water rescue, I learned that staying calm allows you to think clearly and confidently deal with whatever it is. Staying calm keeps other people calm as well, which keeps situations from escalating. This is a skill that I will take with me off the beach. Now I know that when something crazy in my life happens, all I have to do is take a few deep breaths and start problem solving.

 

2. Have confidence in yourself:

    At the beginning of the summer, I was incredibly scared to start working for OCBP. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pass all of the physically demanding tests in the training Academy, and I knew that if I did I would end up doing something even harder: being responsible for the lives of thousands of people on my beach. There was one thing in particular that especially scared me: each day every guard has to drag their stand to the front of the beach. The guard stand weighs 300 pounds and after several bad experiences where I dropped the stand on myself, I was scared to try it again. I had a friend come with me one morning to spot me, and after I successfully moved it all by myself he asked why I thought I needed help, so I explained why I was scared to do it. When I asked him again the next morning to come spot me he refused; he told me I had to have confidence in myself. I now realize how important that refusal was. Each time I struggled to move the stand and succeeded I became progressively more confident with my ability to do it. By the end of the summer, moving the stand was a breeze. That experience taught me an important lesson: believing you can do something is the first step to actually doing it.

 

3.  Ask questions:

    The best part about my summer was that every day was different; this meant that we were always experiencing something new. No one is ever done learning at OCBP; we are always continuously improving. I quickly realized that asking questions is key to becoming a better guard. This extends into life as well, and from now on I will make more of an effort to ask lots of questions in everything I do.