NAME: JANET CARBIN
LOCATION(S): MANASQUAN, NEW JERSEY; SPRING LAKE, NEW JERSEY
YEARS LIFEGUARDING: 43
I have come from a swimming and ocean family. My father was a lifeguard, and my brother, and at that time in the 1970’s the only choice for women was to guard on a lake, pond or pool. My mother and older sisters did just so, and taught swim lessons at the local lake. At 16, I started to help them, and started my first unofficial swim team there. However, my heart always was at the ocean.
My father taught me the ways of the wind and currents, and I would be out body surfing with all of my brother’s friends who were guards. I was the little surf rat that was always in the waves. At the age of 18, which was the first age that our town in Manasquan, NJ would allow people to apply for ocean front guarding I decide to try out, even though no women worked on the ocean, at least in my town and the local town’s at that time. The media got wind of the fact a “girl” was going to try out and showed up for the swim. I came in 3 rd out of 23 and there were 10 spots open. They were forced to offer me a job. All that summer I was tested, so to speak, however, I earned the respect of my crew and fellow guards. By the end of the year I was in the fold.
I stayed in Manasquan on and off, though pregnancy, a failed marriage, re married and had a third child. Again, there were very few women on the beach during the 1980’s, and even less that had children. But, my children grew up on the beach, and also learned the way of the wind and waves. I rose to the ranks of second in command, and kind of settled in to “no woman would ever be a Chief”.
The opportunity came along in Spring Lake, NJ to become one of the first women Chiefs, and in a crazy move I took it. It is the largest beach in the county, has two pools, and all the programs that come along with that size of a beach. It is two miles long and has 26 stands, 160 employees between all of the programs; junior guards, swim team, lesson, masters, etc, as well as all beach tournaments and so forth.
It was the scariest move I ever made, and one of the most wonderful. Besides, building a lifelong beach family, I have been involved in crazy rescues over my years it is difficult to pick out a few. I was awarded the Medal of Honor for a crazy jetty rescue, where a surfer was dropped onto one of our jetty’s that had an indentation kind of in the rocks. It was before work and I was meeting guards early to body surf and was flagged down by patrons. The surf was pounding the rocks, about 4-7 foot swells, and I had to climb out on the very slippery rocks to reach him.
Police and other guards arrived, I got oxygen on to him, but in the time the tide was coming in and his leg was stuck under a rock. We did not know the extent of his injuries, but he was starting to submerge with the tide.We neck braced him and started to backboard, and I was ready to start mouth to mouth under water if necessary, but some miracle his leg came free. We got him out, and I was told, about three operations later on is neck, he was perfectly fine.
There are so many rescues, one is not more important than the other, as I always told my guards, “a good rescue is when all come out alive and safe”.
I am also very proud that both of my daughter’s, Jenna Carbin, and Jessica Stevenson were both strong beach guards also. Jessica actually was part of the tournament coordinators for our beach. How many moms’ get to sit on a stand, compete in tournaments together, and just live the guard life together?
So I have been on the beach in one way or another since 1977, so I guess it has been 43 years. I intend to continue to compete in USLA National competitions as I always have, and be a part of my local county organizations.
My biggest project is now focusing on training my two granddaughters all the ways of the wind and the waves.
Images Provided by Janet Carbin.