NAME: CORINNE PETERS-DICTOR

YEARS LIFEGUARDING: 30

LOCATION(S): LONG BEACH, NEW YORK; JONES BEACH, NEW YORK; JENSEN BEACH, FLORIDA

At 46 years old, I have been an ocean lifeguard for more than half of my life. I began my lifeguarding training at birth, officially though I started in 1991, working for the City of Long Beach, New York. At 16 years old, my first job was lifeguarding on the ocean. Up to that point, I had been a competitive swimmer for ten years, and this was a natural progression. My job choice made sense as I am the daughter of a lifeguard. After two summers, I left Long Beach Beach Patrol to join the prestigious Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps. At Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, New York. I have now worked at Jones Beach since 1993.

I am a high school reading teacher and swim coach in Jensen Beach, Florida. I have two amazing, ocean-loving children, Grace, 11, and Liam, 8. My husband and I met teaching in 2001. I had been working at Jones Beach for eight years, and he had been working at Jones Beach for four years. It was a perfect match. We had shared goals and love for the ocean. It was that love for the water that led us to the decision to move to Florida. In Jensen Beach, we can enjoy the water year-round, and we wanted to raise our children with that experience. We were married in 2005 and moved to Florida that same year. We enjoyed Florida for a few summers before deciding to return to New York to lifeguard in the summer of 2013. We then had our two children, and it was time to pass the legacy on to them.

I chose my career in teaching due to my love of lifeguarding. I wanted summers off to continue my other career path. Lifeguarding is in my blood. I grew up going to the beach every day in the summer and Jones Beach Lifeguards were my role models. I was raised with a love for the ocean, keeping the public safe and a competitive spirit. My father’s example shaped who I am now by the experiences he exposed me to then. As a child going to the beach all summer taught me perseverance, how to respect the ocean, and the beauty of nature. I learned how to stay calm in the most adverse situations and how to push myself.

Surf rescue has tremendous meaning for my family and me. I have a strong passion to teach love and respect for the ocean to everyone. I live a life of service to the public. I feel we have a responsibility to share our passion and expertise with others. Everyone should have the opportunity to feel the beauty of the ocean as I do. I am passionate about educating and keeping the public safe. Many do not understand the power of the ocean, and as a career lifeguard, I do all I can to make sure the public will enjoy their time at the beach. I am involved in the Jones Beach Junior lifeguard program, training of the newly hired lifeguards, and most recently running a Junior lifeguard camp in Jensen Beach.

Corinne at the stern of the boat, 7 years old.

In my years of lifeguarding, I have made countless rescues. I have rescued every type of person in every circumstance imaginable. There are a few rescues that I will never forget. One of which was with another strong female lifeguard, Erin McManus. It was my second or third year on the ocean at Jones Beach. It was a cold rainy day. Erin and I were alone on the stand, and it was a ghost town on the beach, not a patron in sight. As we were scanning the ocean, Erin, looking east, said, “I think I hear someone in the water down there.” “No way! It’s freezing!” I replied. Sure enough, looking through the binoculars, there were two men about 20 yards out in the ocean and about ½ mile down the beach. The men were caught in a rip current, struggling and getting pulled out fast. We blew our whistles, alerting the other lifeguards that we were going in on a rescue and leaving the stand. After the run, we entered the water, and the men were already giving up.

Erin went for the man on the inside who was in more danger, and I went for the man on the outside. He had already taken in water, was going under, and completely panicked. When I go to him, he was so panicked that instead of grabbing the rescue tube, he grabbed my shoulders and pushed me under the water. I had to swim away from him underwater and gain more space between him and me. I tried again, and this time he took the tube. By the time we got to shore, the other guards were there for back up & we treated the victims. Neither of the men spoke English, and we were unable to communicate with us well. If Erin had not heard them, they would have certainly died that day. It was rainy, foggy, and they were far away, out of any designated swimming area. At 20 years old, I learned first hand how fragile life is and how much there is to appreciate. Erin and I saved those men’s lives. That is a powerful feeling that words cannot explain.

I always tell new female lifeguards to be strong. Lifeguarding is a mentally and physically demanding job. As a woman, we have to prove that I am physically capable of executing a rescue of someone much larger than me successfully. We have to embody the example of a strong capable woman. Lifeguarding is the most rewarding job. It is a family of close-knit, watermen, and women that share the same passion and love for helping and educating the public. After body surfing waves one day, my daughter said to me, “The ocean makes me feel elegant & powerful. I feel like I’m jumping into a rainbow.” I couldn’t have explained it better.

Images Provided by Corinne Peters-Dictor.