BRIGANTINE - Competitors at the 48th annual Chief Bill Kuhn Brigantine Beach Patrol Lifeguard Invitational enjoyed showing off their rescue skills so much that even the teams that weren't winning races were having a good time.
But the Brigantine patrol had the most fun of all, winning three of the five races and taking the overall team title with 33 points Sunday night at the 16th Street beach. Defending champion Atlantic City didn't win a race but scored 24 points for second place. Longport was third with 23.
"People like our races because they really showcase the different rescue techniques that you would implement," Brigantine Beach Patrol Chief Joe Guenther said.
Brigantine guard Mike Demarest leaped out of the boat rowed by veterans Vince Sera and Lt. Rob Canavan as the three got near the shoreline, and Demarest ran to the finish line to win the final race, the rescue relay, and the team title. Their patrol mates gave out a roar and then lifted the Brigantine boat with Sera and Canavan inside and carried them off the beach.
"My teammates were definitely the best," said Demarest, 20, a Galloway Township resident who is the captain of the Rowan University men's swim team. "It feels awesome to win. The short relays are a lot closer to what real lifeguarding is."
The races were all out to flags about 500 feet from shore and back.
The rescue relay win started with Brigantine swimmer Michael Brooks going to the flag and returning with teammate Kip Emig, who was waiting at the flag. Brigantine paddleboarder Sven Peltonen went to the flag and came back with Doug Brown. Sera and Canavan brought back Demarest.
"We almost missed the flag as Mike got in the boat," said Canavan, 46, a resident of both Atlanta and Brigantine. "It sent us away from the flag, but Vince navigated us right and we went around the flag."
Brigantine's Kyle Fitzgerald, Brown, Eric Herndon and Peltonen won the paddle relay. Peltonen was also in the surfboat relay, a race in which Brigantine finished second to Margate.
"For me, I like the fact that you can be in more than one race," said Peltonen, an Atlantic City firefighter and Brigantine resident. "(The event) gets more people involved and it's a lot better for morale."
Brigantine's other win came in the iron-man relay, a race in which a swimmer goes to the flag and returns after a paddleboarder goes out to meet him or her. A crew finishes the relay with an out-and-back row.
The winning team consisted of swimmer Michael Brooks, paddler Fitzgerald and the crew of J.R. Henry and Ron DeFelice. A wave turned the Brigantine crew around backwards in the surf, but Henry and DeFelice had time to adjust.
"The other guys before us gave us such a big lead that we didn't have to panic," said the 22-year-old DeFelice, the stern man, of Ocean City.
The Margate crews of Chuck Gowdy and Bob Bechtel, Joe Palmer and Pat Smith, and Dan Salerno and Ermindo Marsini won the surfboat relay.
Palmer, 33, is an assistant men's crew coach at Drexel University. "Chuck and Bob gave us a nice lead, and Pat and I had a really good course out and back," Palmer said. "Our third crew had a good row, too. We have a lot of guys on our patrol who can row. It shows our depth."
Longport's Bob Ballance, Max Mittelman, Vic Giannini and Katie Adams won the swim relay. Mittelman, 21, is a Ventnor resident who will be a senior for the University of North Carolina-Wilmington track and field team. He said a lot of rescues are teamwork.
"A big rescue will involve two swimmers with a (rescue) can, a paddler and a boat," said Mittelman.
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