The Atlantic City Beach Patrol is the oldest lifeguard organization in the United States. It became an official ocean lifesaving force in June of 1884. It began with twenty lifeguards.
During those early days, lifeguards used canvas tents to store equipment and change into their uniforms. Later these tents became wooden structures. Today they are modern buildings serving many functions. Not surprisingly, the guards still refer to them as “tents.”
During the early years the art and scientific methods of ocean rescues was mostly achieved through trial and error. As the lifesaving force grew and became more experienced, equipment became more sophisticated. Well over ninety percent of the Atlantic City Beach Patrols rescues are performed using two man lifeboats They are capable of cutting through the oceans pounding surf with rapid efficiency. Swimmers generally play a backup role to the boat crews. Today’s equipment is state of the art to the extent that motorized craft are used in certain instances.
The Atlantic City Beach Patrol’s members vary in number but generally remain about 125. They consist of lifeguards, a captain and medical student for each tent, assistant chiefs, a chief and ambulance driver. Mascots are also considered an important part of the beach patrols makeup. There are approximately forty eight lifeguard stations along Atlantic City’s beaches. There are two guards to a stand, in some cases three, where a particular station experiences an inordinate number of rescues. During the years before casinos, it was not unusual for the force to perform 5000 rescues a summer. Additionally, 60,000 visitors were treated by the medical staff. Bathers use to swarm to the beaches in such numbers, that at times it was difficult to find a place to lay your blanket.
The Atlantic City Beach Patrol test is given to aspiring candidates each year. Candidates are given a boat test which is held on the roughest ocean day available. The young hopeful must show superior boatmanship by guiding the craft through rough surf without mishap. This is followed by a competitive swimming test with usually ten to twelve candidates to a heat. The test is very difficult and only a handful are deemed good enough to wear the organizations red shirt. The Atlantic City Beach Patrol enjoys an outstanding safety record.