Rival beach patrol oarsmen David Funk, Chuck Gowdy and Dylan Kosten each described today’s South Jersey Lifeguard Championships as the beach event that tops them all.

The team that wins the South Jersey Championships gets to host it the following summer. The event began in 1924 and has evolved only slightly throughout the years. Its simple three-race format adds to the event’s prestige.

The 73rd annual South Jersey Lifeguard Championships begins at 6:30 p.m. at 34th Street beach in Ocean City. The races are the 11/2-mile doubles row, the 3/4-mile swim and the 1/4-mile singles row.

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All 15 patrols in the South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association will compete.

Kosten is the Ocean City guard who led his team to the title last year in Margate, getting second place in the doubles with partner Matt Garbutt and also finishing second in the singles row.

“The South Jerseys is the race that counts,” said Kosten, 23. “It’s the only one that everyone remembers. This is the Big Kahuna.”

Gowdy, David Funk and brother Ashton Funk each have a record seven race wins at the South Jersey Championships.

David Funk and Gowdy would not speak directly about the South Jersey wins record.

Ashton Funk has a back injury and won’t be competing this season.

David Funk rows for Ventnor, and he won the singles row last Friday at the Margate Beach Patrol World War II Memorials to give his team that title. He also rows doubles with Mike Tripician.

“If you only have one win, (the South Jerseys) is the one to get,” said David Funk, 34. “Mike and I feel pretty strong going into this race. The Margate Memorials is an indicator (for the South Jerseys) but there are a lot of good teams.”

Gowdy, 29, led Margate to titles at the Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic and Dutch Hoffman Memorials in Wildwood by getting first and second, respectively, in the singles row.

He was also second to David Funk in the singles last week.

“I feel comfortable with where Margate stands,” Gowdy said. “We’re doing the best we can to prepare for the biggest one of the year. The most important thing is to win the team title, as Dave (Funk) said last week, but individually you have to do your part. It should be interesting and exciting.”

Margate, Ventnor, Avalon, Longport and Ocean City appear to be the favorites, and there could always be some upsets.

“The South Jersey Championships always draws a crowd. It’s a special event,” said Mark Jamieson, an Ocean City Beach Patrol training officer and coach. “It should definitely be tight competition in every event. With the three-race format, if you do well in two you’re in a pretty good spot.”

Avalon’s Erich Wolf and Craig Whitehead won the doubles row at the Atlantic City Classic and at Margate. Wolf is the defending South Jersey singles winner.

Cape May’s Chris Vittese and Anthony Onimus pulled an upset in the doubles at the Hoffman Memorials.

North Wildwood rookie Sean Regan won the swim in Atlantic City and in Margate. Contenders include Blake Trabuchi-Downey of Sea Isle City, Bob Ballance of Longport, Sean McCall of Stone Harbor, Pat Flynn of Margate and Graham Parker of Ocean City.

Note: The weather forecast for today called for scattered thunderstorms.

“We’ll hold the races unless there’s severe weather, like lightning, hail or high winds,” said Jeff Garbutt, an Ocean City Beach Patrol senior lieutenant. “We’re monitoring the weather closely and we’ll make the call (today). The safety of everyone is the most important thing.”

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