Wrightsville Beach officials say town prepared for Memorial Day, summer activities

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Veteran lifeguard guard again bests newcomers in tryouts

Wrightsville Beach officials said this week that they are ready for Memorial Day Weekend and the official start of the summer season, which includes adding 10 new lifeguards to the town’s ocean rescue squad.

Fire Chief Glen Rogers said that as many as 50 candidates came out over the course of two tryout session, with 10 new guards ultimately being selected. Those guards, as well as some returning guards, spent the past two weeks training, he said.

The new guards went through a variety of training exercises, including active rescues, passive rescues, a swim around the south end jetty and even a “horizon swim,” where they swim about a mile out into the ocean.

“It helps get them in peak condition and use to being away from the relative safety of the shore,” Rogers said.

The training will end on Thursday, when the guards run through a series of tests on the beach, he said, including rescue breathing, tourniquet application and patient assessment.

There are different scenarios along the way that they have to master,” he said. “It’s all teamwork. They have to carry each other along.”

Along with the 10 new lifeguards, several returning guards will also participate in the final preparation.

Starting on Friday, May 24, the Wrightsville Beach lifeguard stands will be staffed everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekends will see two guards in all 13 stands, along with four roving guards on all terrain vehicles.

It’s already been a busy start to the lifeguard season, he said, with guards averaging a rescue or two a day. A High Point woman died in late April after being rescued by Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue, though officials aren’t sure whether to classify it as a drowning since another medical issue could have contributed to her death, Rogers said.

Sean Ruttkay after placing first overall in the 2019 WBOR tryouts.

Rogers said that several of the rescues are the result of inexperienced swimmers losing their footing and stepping off of the sandbar.

Meanwhile, veteran lifeguard Sean Ruttkay, who is 38 years old, took part in his ninth tryout on April 28, where he won the combined run and swim for the seventh time, beating several candidates who are in their early 20s. While several of those candidates did post faster swimming time, Ruttkay’s speedy run put him first overall in the first tryout session.

“Tons of UNCW swimmers, I thought they had me, but I chased them down in the running part,” he said.

Ruttkay said that the candidates for the 2019 Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue were strong and capable.

“This is one of the most athletic, top ranking crews I’ve ever seen,” he said.

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