A Conversation with John Ryan Sr. and John Ryan Jr.

John Ryan Jr., left, and John Ryan Sr. Courtesy photo

The co-founders of the Hampton Lifeguard Association, John Ryan Sr. and John Ryan Jr., talk about what it means to “waterproof” or “drown-proof” the South Fork community and how the association’s upcoming benefit event will support its mission.

What would you say is the most important part of the organization’s mission?

Ryan Sr.:The kids in the in-school swim program. I believe every school system out here, since we’re surrounded by water, ought to be able to have kids graduate with swimming. That would be ambitious. At fourth grade, if a kid can tread water in the deep end of the pool for five minutes, we’d be very, very happy. This year for the first time, we’ve got our Nipper program and the Junior Lifeguard program, we finally put it in two languages. Our concern was for the Hispanic community, we did not have enough of the community in the programs.

Ryan Jr.:Our mission is to drown-proof the community. That’s easier than said than done. When we started Hampton Lifeguard Association, that’s what our goal was — to create education. Knowledge is power. If you build this knowledge in kids, when they grow up, they’ll always have this knowledge.

What do you find people do not know about safety on local beaches?

Ryan Jr.:What they don’t know is everybody needs to have a plan when they go in the water. The non-swimmer needs to only go up to his waist. But Mother Nature has a different plan. The most people that get in trouble that drown are swimmers. They can swim, but guess what, when you’re in a position where you can’t control what you know you’re used to, you panic. It’s so quick. Panic, fear sets in and you immediately make rash decisions. They’re struggling to keep themselves afloat because they’re panicked. You get into trouble because you’ve underestimated Mother Nature.

Ryan Sr.:We never try to tell anybody that they have to make a water rescue. We teach our kids that if you see a friend in trouble, don’t give up your body. Signal for help, point to the problem and give up your boogie board. You can do that. If I’m faced with any emergency, call for help first, if it’s a water rescue. Ocean rescue and the police will come in first and be there within five minutes. We’ve never missed that mandate. If you’ve got an unresponsive victim, the dispatcher will tell you how to do hands-on CPR. We teach that in our lecture courses. If a non-swimmer tries to help, then you have two victims.

What would you say is the Hampton Lifeguard Association’s greatest need right now?

Ryan Sr.:Water safety at the pools. Making people aware of the fact that when they see a problem to get help and get the right kind of help by calling 911. We think that if we get called sooner, if you look at any kind of a tragedy, in a water rescue it’s the call for help.

Ryan Jr.:We have a budget. We’re limited in our budget. With increasing numbers in our junior’s program, the town can only provide a certain amount of funds in the budget to purchase a certain amount of items. Rescue boards are about $700 each. The Hampton Lifeguard Association might buy three of them. That’s partly it. All these things that cost a good deal of money … the goal is to waterproof this community.

How will the upcoming benefit event help the association?

Ryan Sr.:It’ll raise some money. It brings awareness to all our programs. It just alerts the people to all the great help that there is and the fun that kids can have.

The Hampton Lifeguard Association’s annual benefit party is Saturday, April 13, from 7 to 11 p.m. at Harbor Bistro, 313 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton. There will be music, raffles, food and a cash bar. Tickets are $35 per person or $50 for a couple. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page at facebook.com/events/375029433101593/.