East Hampton Lifeguard Will Return to World Stage
By Gavin Menu
The last two years have been a whirlwind for Amanda Calabrese, an East Hampton ocean lifeguard who traveled to Europe, Australia, and beaches across America to compete at — and win — some of the biggest lifesaving competitions in the world, all while squeezing in a college education at Stanford University, where she will return for her sophomore year in the fall.
Before her return to school, however, will be a trip to California next month to compete as a member of the Hamptons Lifesaving Association at the National Championships at Hermosa Beach, just south of Los Angeles. Calabrese will defend her national title in beach flags, which she won last year as a 17 year-old in the open division, competing against female lifeguards of every age.
That performance, coupled with being a self-described “tool belt” in the eyes of the United States Lifesaving Association, has earned Calabrese, who is now 18, a spot on the 2016 U.S. Open National Team, which will compete in September at the World Lifesaving Championships, also known as Rescue 2016, in the Netherlands.
The group, which was announced on Tuesday, is comprised of six men and six women from both the east and west coasts and was assembled based on past experience in national tournaments. The team will depart for the Netherlands on September 2 and will compete over five days against more than 40 countries.
“The U.S. National team is a very talented and versatile group of surf lifesavers,” said Dr. Mike Barrows, head coach of the national team. “They are a dedicated and hard working group of athletes who will achieve great success at Rescue 2016.”
Barrows called Calabrese a “versatile surf lifesaver.”
“She is also a good ski paddler,” he added. “She trained for a couple months in Australia to improve both her beach and surf skills. She has a very positive attitude which is integral to good team chemistry.“
Calabrese, who also competed in France last summer as a member of the U.S. junior team, said she will be a beach specialist at the international championship in September. “In Australia they call us ‘beachie,’” she said with a laugh.
This beachie is not too shabby in the water either. One thing that made her so attractive to coaches with the national team is her versatility. She is more than just a sprinter and can handle a surf or paddle board alongside the best lifeguards in the country. She can also swim short or long distances, and is a valuable team member should someone go down with an injury.
At last year’s national tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida, Calabrese scored 57 points in the open division, which placed her fifth in the nation as an individual. Prior to that she won five national junior titles in board racing, beach flags, swim relay and ironwoman, an event that is comprised of all the lifesaving disciplines.
“My heart is in the water, but my power lies on the beach,” Calabrese said this week as she was also preparing to compete at the annual Main Beach Lifeguard Tournament, which will be held Thursday, July 21. “I do love to surf ski and paddle board. I do every event at nationals. My role is the tool belt.”
The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) is a nonprofit whose primary goal is to raise awareness about water safety, a mission Calabrese takes to heart.
“The thing I love about lifesaving sports at these international competitions is we’re going to learn what kind of life saving tactics they use in Japan, or what they do in Australia that could make our beaches safer,” Calabrese said. “It’s a large mix of information.”
Aside from the humanitarian aspect of being a lifeguard and competing at such a high level, where spreading awareness is one of the primary goals, Calabrese is excited to see a new crop of lifeguards sprouting up in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Southampton who might soon come along for the ride. Athletes like Chasen Dubs, who was also on the junior national team last year, Isabella Swanson, and Maggie Purcell, who, according to Calabrese, are being noticed by the USLA.
“A lot of those kids I used to swim with are now on the high performance team,” she said. “There’s a lot of really strong guards coming out of East Hampton, which is really exciting to see.”
Those who would like to support Calabrese’s trip to the Netherlands can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks are made payable to United States Lifesaving Association.