Aug. 3, 2023 By John Schilling
More than 100 lifeguards gathered on Beach 106th Street in Rockaway Park on Monday, July 31, to participate in the 2023 NYC Parks Lifeguard Games, an Olympics-style event that tests the participants’ “strength, teamwork, skill and lifesaving prowess” through friendly competition.
The annual event was first held in Rockaway in 1938 with local lifeguards, as well as competitors from Orchard Beach, Jacob Riis Park, Coney Island and South Beach. In 1938, Rockaway lifeguards from the peninsula’s eastern side came out on top, and NYC Parks has tried to keep that winning spirit alive in the years since by using the event as an opportunity to highlight the lifeguards.
“Our lifeguards are the unsung heroes of summer, keeping a watchful eye on swimmers and helping to keep New Yorkers safe,” NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa said. “I could not be more proud of all of the teams that participated in these games and was beyond pleased to help facilitate this historic meet for our lifeguards.”
During the July 31 event, six Rockaway lifeguard teams from across the peninsula competed in the games, including the event’s classic beach flag sprint to test speed and endurance and tug-of-war to measure team strength.
The teams also participated in other matchups, such as a two-man rescue drill near the shore, the 500-meter board paddle race, the 500-meter swim race and a reel rescue that utilized a harness stationed on the edge of the beach.
By the end of the Lifeguard Games, the Beach 73 lifeguard team came out on top, winning the Commissioner’s Cup, with the Beach 59 and Beach 117 placing behind them in second and third place, respectively. Other finishers included the Beach 86, Beach 106, and combined Beach 17 and 32 lifeguard crews.
Regardless of the results, NYC Parks Rockaway Lifeguard and Lifeguard Games Organizer Justin Hausler said the event was less about highlighting individual talent and more about showcasing the collaborative effort of the lifeguards.
“I’m really happy that our younger generation – our newest lifeguards – were able to experience this event, one that really highlights our teamwork and camaraderie,” Hausler said. “I’m honored that I was able to contribute to this year’s successful event, and we’ll be back next year looking to make it bigger and better.”