The history of Monmouth County is rich and reflects the integral part it played in our Revolutionary War. The area was important for the coastal military defense of New York harbor up until 1973 and includes landmarks of the USLS (United States Lifesaving Service), instituted to rescue shipwrecked sailors and passengers off New Jersey’s coast. The history of the coastal fishing industry during the 1800’s and early 1900’s includes a type of surfboat called the “Sea Bright Skiff”, which was constructed here and used daily to bring in the catch from “off the beach”. The configuration of this boat served as the model for the beach patrol rescue boats of New Jersey’s beaches, and remains the basic hull configuration of the ever present and well known “Asay Surfboats” of today. These boats, made of both wood and fiberglass, serve both as utility rescue boats by the beach patrols in Monmouth County, and as the surfboat of choice for all lifeguard rowing competitors, whether it be local tournaments or USLA Regional or National Championships. The boat has also been adopted by other chapter teams throughout the US due to it’s self-bailing aspect, which is an evolved modification of the basic “skiff” design. The builder, Bob Asay, is a chapter member and competitor, and has been constructing and improving his surfboats in Asbury Park, Monmouth County, since his first wooden boat was built there in 1980.
The USLA National Certification Program was modeled after the NJ/USLA certification program, developed in Monmouth County. The certification is mandated in NJ for all beaches and all beach lifeguards. This was first introduced and developed by chapter member, Dave Shotwell of Ocean Grove in 1989, and was a fully functional program in NJ when the USLA National Board of Directors enacted a directive for a USLA “national certification” program. All beach patrols in NJ must be certified, but may also opt to also apply for the national USLA certification. The national USLA became such in 1979, before which it was called the “National Surf Lifesaving Association”, first established 1965 in California. The one mainly responsible for this change in name and concept was the late Sheridan Byerly of Los Angeles County. In March of 1979, he visited the East Coast and made a stop in Monmouth County. An informational session was set up in the Physical Education Office of Monmouth College (now MU) by the late Dick Steadman, swimming and diving coach of MC. In attendance were Dick, Bob Dillon, Greg Farry, and a few other interested parties to hear about this “national” lifeguard organization. In fact, the USLA was not yet national, for the only affiliations then were in California. This informational meeting was an attempt to stimulate interest here on the East coast. It was thought that a chapter here would be a good forum not only for beach supervisors, but also for the rank and file beach lifeguard to affiliate in order to improve their professionalism and to augment the rescue response of the beach patrols through new communication linkages of beach patrols throughout the US. Other benefits of belonging to a national organization, where the motto “Lifeguards for Life” was self evident. Membership materials, public education materials, competition opportunities were all inherent in this new venture. Thus, the Monmouth County Chapter of the USLA was “born” as a practical concept and entity in this year, 1979. Meetings were subsequently held at Monmouth College with the chapter becoming a known functional entity among the beach patrols of Monmouth County. With names of NY contacts given to Bob Dillon by Sheridan, calls were made to others like Tom Daly of Long Beach, NY, who was starting a Long Beach, NY Chapter. Meetings were held at both Monmouth College and in Long Beach, NY, and so began the foundation and formation of the “MA Region”. The history and beginning of the “Mid-Atlantic Region” is now tied directly to the history of the Monmouth County Chapter.
The USLA was now something new in the area, and membership was inviting and something novel. Bob and Dick were spreading the word and soliciting membership on the various beaches. Greg Farry was asked to be first treasurer. What was facilitative to entice membership was the fact that Coppertone was then the national sponsor, and upon request, a multitude of boxes of various Coppertone products began arriving in Monmouth County. Bob’s garage was the distribution center where much packing of membership kits took place. The chapter was now established with the by-laws modeled after the national association, and the dues were $20.00. This covered both the regional and national dues. There was also a magazine that came with the membership four times a year, printed then in California, and called “US Lifesaving”. (now called “American Lifeguard”).
After the first year, an Ocean County Chapter was initiated by Jim Cresbaugh, of the Lavallette BP. He attended meetings of the Monmouth County Chapter and then spun off another chapter with blessings from the MC Chapter. Two chapters in two adjacent counties enabled competition possibilities between the two chapters. Thus, on two occasions “The Monmouth vs. Ocean County All Star Lifeguard Tournament” took place, once on Manasquan Beach in 1982, and again in 1983 in Bradley Beach. The events were organized by Bob Dillon and on both occasions, a visiting competition team from Australia participated unofficially. Festivities after the competition took place at the old “Rescue Tavern” of Belmar, then owned by Tim Gallagher. (The Rescue is now called “The Boathouse” and owned by brothers Tim and Matt Harmon of the SG BP). The mixing of the Aussi and local lifeguard competitors enabled some pleasant exchanges and comparative competition discussions, as well as exposure to another lifeguard culture including other rescue techniques. There have been other visits by both Australian competitors, officials and coaches to Monmouth County. The chapter, now having recognition in the US and being prominent in the Northeast, is contacted frequently to be the host for a visit. The chapter has hosted many individuals from other parts of the country and of the world.
Back in 1980, this desire to both be recognized by the USLA and to gain from participation in it’s functions initiated some overtures from the chapter to the west coast. It was Greg Farry who first went to a national meeting, the Spring meeting held in San Clemente, CA . With $150.00 from the treasury (the rest out of pocket), he went to see what a national meeting was all about. It was there that the Executive Director of the USLA, Byron Wear, invited the chapter to participate in the first National Lifeguard Championships of the newly named “USLA”. This was to be held in San Diego in August. Realizing the chapter did not have much in the way of resources to field a team to California, the effort was made to solicit interested competitors. With only about $600.00 available in the treasury at that time for expenses, the prospect of sending a “team” was doubtful. However, a team of four competitors was formed and captained by Art Poole of Sandy Hook. Accepting the fact that the expense would mostly be out of pocket, they went, they participated, they learned, and they helped establish our presence at a national venue. Since that early beginning, the chapter has fielded a team for every national lifeguard championships, and has placed in the top four every time. We had now become nationally ranked as one of the top four teams in the nation. Competitors from the Monmouth County Chapter have also become nationally ranked as individuals due to their respective performances. Every USLA national team of twelve competitors formed to compete in the “World International Championships”, every two years, has included competitors from this chapter. Monmouth County is now “on the map” in the US due to the participation and the records of our competitors. Proclamations from the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders have been bestowed on the chapter twice due to the chapter team’s performances. The competition aspect of the USLA has facilitated national recognition, to not only the chapter, but also to Monmouth County, NJ.
Regarding administration of the USLA , the elected national Executive Board has two long standing members from this Chapter: Greg Farry as Treasurer and Dave Shotwell as Secretary. Tim Gallagher has, for many years, both coached and managed the USLA National team in the “Worlds”, as well as served as President of the Mid-Atlantic Region for thirteen years (1990-2003). Tim was also the editor/publisher of the “American Lifeguard” magazine the membership publication of the USLA, for eight years (1993-2000). Greg Farry was for a time, treasurer of all three levels of the USLA: chapter, region and national. Greg, along with Ed Kiziukiewicz, were bestowed “life members” in the USLA by the national board of directors. Dave Shotwell still manages the Certification Program in NJ. Locally, co-founder Bob Dillon served as the chapters first president from it’s beginning in 1979 to 1984 when Charles Hartl took over from 1985 to 1988. Bob resumed the presidency again in 1988 until December of 2003, when newly elected Tim Harmon of the Sea Girt BP took office. One can see that the Monmouth County Chapter has an impressive history and legacy, and is a chapter that is held in high regard within the USLA. From surfboats and national titles; from certification to administrative positions and involvement, this chapter is now well established with it’s membership and it’s recognition. Hopefully it’s status will continue to improve as it’s new officers lead forth with new ideas and an involved membership. The Chapter’s history begins now, and should continue with new accomplishments and further recognition, as it’s members continue to be an integral part of the USLA.
Both past and future members should realize that we have become a chapter, and should continue being a chapter of “Lifeguards for Life”!
Monmouth County History
A Historical Perspective of Ocean Lifeguarding in