CAPE MAY - The Victorian Motel just had a room cancellation, a three-night stay, when the phone rang. Manager John Cooke said a group of lifeguards needed a place to stay for this week's National Lifeguard Championships. Problem solved.

"I can tell you, it will maximize hotel occupancy in town. The lifeguards will fill up the remaining gaps in hotel occupancy and the restaurants will feel a bump. It's a boost to what has been a good season," Cooke said.

The U.S. Lifesaving Association is expecting up to 1,500 lifeguards, and their families, for the four-day competition that begins Wednesday with the junior lifeguard competition. The adult competition runs from Thursday through Saturday.

The USLA held the competition here last year and decided to come back, said Competition Committee Chairman Ed Zabrowski.

"We think the town does a great job. Everybody chips in, and that makes Cape May unique," Zabrowski said.

Zabrowski said teams come mostly come from coastal areas, such as California and Florida, but he noted Chicago sends lifeguards to compete and the USLA event was held one year on Lake Michigan. If there are lifeguards and "open water rescuers," the non-profit USLA is there to educate, train, and represent them.

Zabrowski said the defending champion, the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Association, which beat a New Jersey team from Monmouth County, will be back to defend its title. Next year, L.A. County will host the USLA championships.

The competition also offers a chance to determine the best of the best in different events involving swimming, boating, paddle-boarding, surf-skiing and others. Entrants also will battle to get on a 12-member national team that will compete at a world championship competition called Rescue 2012 in Australia in November. This competition is held every two years.

"We'll pick six females and six males. The U.S. has never won this. Third is the highest we've ever done," Zabrowski said.

While many people have been glued to TV coverage of the Olympics, Zabrowski is urging the public to come out to the beach to watch a true combination of track and swimming.

"We have both," he joked.

Contact Richard Degener:

609-463-6711

If you go

The USLA championships are free (beach tag required from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and open to the public.

The four-day event will take place at Grant Street and Beach Avenue in Cape May.

The juniors, for ages 9-17, will last most of the day Wednesday beginning at 8 a.m. The senior lifeguard competitions begin Thursday at 8 a.m.