Dreary weather skewed my chances of meeting up with Shanin and Bryan Theiss in Ocean City, NJ but that didn’t stop me from learning their story. The two brothers are competitive lifeguards originally from Allentown, PA, who spent 11 years respectively with the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP).
After a 12-year hiatus, they tried out again for the patrol (Bryan in 2014 and Shanin in 2015). Now they have 15 years under their belt in Ocean City, and over 50 years combined of Ocean Rescue & EMS service in New Jersey, Florida, California & Colorado.
Even though they are based in different departments in Colorado and Florida, both migrate back to the Jersey Shore every summer to reunite with their true passion… lifeguarding. From June to September they return to the OCBP where they get to pass down their knowledge and expertise to kids in training. Bryan is a Training Officer Lt. and Shanin is a Senior Guard.
This is my first time hearing about competitive lifeguarding, but I learned that it has been around for years. As young kids spending summers down the shore, their father used to take them to the lifeguard races where they quickly fell in love with the sport. The race can include a combination of swimming, paddling, rowing, running and surf skiing, or feature all five activities. For those unfamiliar with the surf ski, like myself, it’s basically a kayak but more suitable and stable for the ocean conditions. Bryan’s favorite race is the Ironman, which includes swimming, paddling, rowing and some running. I have to catch my breath just typing this out.
Although they have eased up a bit from competing, they still represent Ocean City in out of town races since their return to the patrol, and hope to keep going again this year. The pair holds a pretty admirable record winning many races and city titles over the course of 15 years.
If you’re wondering whom they get it from, their athletic roots trace back to their parents. Both are Health & Phys Ed teachers, and their father was a well-rounded athlete growing up in Philadelphia. “My father taught me to play every sport by the time I could walk,” says Bryan. “From football to tennis to swimming. He was instrumental in teaching me every sport imaginable, but yet allowing me to gravitate towards what I wanted.”
Lifeguarding isn’t the only thing that impressed me. They have also branched off into other disciplines such as Fire Rescue, Ice and Swift Water Rescue and have countless certifications and instructor credentials. Shanin shares, “I enjoy teaching, molding and sharing the knowledge with the younger guards. Passing the torch… giving back what was given to me and what I learned… and we never stop learning, which is why I continue to train and take classes and educate myself every chance I get. I think it’s unique and a profession less than one percent of the population can actually do. It’s a privilege and there’s some prestige to do what we do.”
When the summer is over, Bryan takes after his father and is an Aquatic Supervisor at a country club in Hobe Sound, Florida while Shanin owns a wholesale apparel company called, Love Light Apparel, LLC based in Dillon, Colorado. His apparel includes Colorado designs, as well as some New Jersey & Pennsylvania designs. Check it out at www.lovelightapparel.com.