East Hampton’s Main Beach Hosted What May Have Been Its Biggest Lifeguard Competition Yet

The Southampton Town women's team emerges from the water during the women's landline rescue. MICHAEL HELLER

After being shut down due to the pandemic last year, East Hampton’s Main Beach Lifeguard Competition returned last Thursday, July 22, to what may have been its largest event ever — and it may only continue to grow, East Hampton Town head lifeguard John Ryan Sr. said.

A Bridgehampton Club lifeguard rushes back into the water during the rescue board relay. MICHAEL HELLER

Nearly 20 outfits from across the South Shore descended upon Main Beach last week to put all of their lifeguard skills to the test, and Ryan expects that number to be over 20 for next year’s competition, which has become the premier destination for such an event on Long Island.

Ryan gave a lot of credit to both Drew Smith, East Hampton Village chief lifeguard, and Chris Minardi, East Hampton Village Trustee, for making this year’s event one of the best in recent memory.

“They really went out of their way to make the tournament better in a lot of different ways,” he said. “We’re always rushing to get this thing done before dark, and it’s hard handling all these teams. Smith Point is dealing with six teams for men and women. We’re dealing with 20 teams, and next year it may be 22 teams.

“But the big thing is that they brought in bleachers that went all the way down the beach for the beach flags,” he continued. “And then the police brought in lights, so there was no rush to finish it all. It was just a nice setting and it speaks well to Drew Smith and Chris Minardi.”

Southampton Town lifeguard Casey Crowley reaches for a flag at the finish line during the men’s beach flags competition. MICHAEL HELLER

With the bleachers and lights set up, the Main Beach competition is now more akin to that of the United States Lifesaving Association National Lifeguard Championships, which also returns this year August 4-7 at South Padre Island, Texas. Hampton Lifeguard Association, made up of guards from both East Hampton and Southampton, will be a sending a team to compete.

In one of the final tune-ups for Nationals, the Smith Point lifeguards, both men and women, won last week’s Main Beach competition — and they also won their host competition on Monday for that matter. The Jones Beach men guards finished second while East Hampton Town’s ‘A’ men placed third. Southampton Town finished fourth and Robert Moses rounded out the top five of the men’s division, which featured 12 teams.

East Hampton Town’s ‘A’ women placed second behind Smith Point, with East Hampton Town’s ‘B’ and Southampton Town tying for third place. The Jones Beach women placed fifth out of seven teams.

East Hampton Village lifeguard William Schlegel dives for the flag at the finish line to win the men’s beach flags competition at East Hampton’s Main Beach Lifeguard Competition on July 22. MICHAEL HELLER

Local lifeguards fared very well in the individual events. East Hampton Village lifeguard Will Schlegel won the uber-competitive beach flags on the men’s side, while Nicole Pikulik of Smith Point won the women’s beach flags.

A pair of East Hampton Town ‘A’ guards, Ryan Fowkes and Paige Duca, won the distance runs, and another East Hampton Town ‘A’ guard, Sophia Swanson, won the women’s distance swim. Jake Veccio of Jones Beach won the men’s distance swim.

East Hampton’s junior lifeguard tournament is this Saturday and Sunday at Indian Wells Beach. The competition will start at 8 a.m. and run until 2 p.m. and will be a good primer for when HLA sends its guards to Nationals.

Southampton Town’s junior lifeguard tournament is set for August 14, the week after Nationals. It will be held at Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays.