NAME: LINDA COTTER
LOCATION(S): MONMOUTH COUNTY, NEW JERSEY
YEARS LIFEGUARDING: 22
My name is Linda Cotter.
When I was Linda Fahoury (and Linda Bless), I worked surf lifesaving on the Jersey Shore, Monmouth County. My career began in 1980 and carried on 22 years beginning with Bradley Beach Beach Patrol and then Belmar Beach Patrol.
I have so many stories of lifesaving back in the 80’s but aren’t sure what type of stories you are looking for. I can tell you we used to wear the ‘belts’ back then, whistles clipped to those belts, and when a rescue happened, the torp was attached to the belt. Yikes, that was hard.
Kim Baker worked for Ocean Grove Beach Patrol 1984 & 85, and then for Bradley Beach 1986 – 2000.
I’ll outline some of our rowing background for now.
In the 80’s, I paired with Kim in rowing. I rowed bow, she rowed stern. We competed alongside of, and beat some of the male teams in the Jack Wright Marathon Row (15 miles) as well as the Jersey Shore Fitness Shop 10 mile row. I can grab specific years if needed.
Back in the 80’s we were blessed to row the wooden Hankins using wooden oars. To prevent the oars from sliding around the oar locks, they were wrapped with old firehose and held together with duct tape. The seats in the Hankins were a plank of wood. Not comfortable so to add a little luxury, we would gather up old foam, lay an old piece of wetsuit over the foam, and duct tape those together. To keep them secure, we used rope to tie them to the seat because back then, various pairs of rowers would use the boat. Each person had their own cushion that was set to the position they needed in the boat.
The foot brace of the Hankins was also crazy different. In the early 80’s, it too, was a strip of old firehose bolted to the wooden brace but eventually, someone would wrap them neoprene to help ‘prevent’ chaffing on the top of feet. Some wore runners on their feet, some didn’t.
I’ve attached a few photos of Kim & I during the Jack Wright Memorial row. Honestly, back then, it was rare for photos during a race and especially training. So, good photos are hard to come by.
Gosh, the stories we could tell you about those days rowing the old Hankins. The average weight of one of those boats was 325-350 lbs. That 2 women were able to lug it around the Atlantic Ocean was a feat in itself. To beat some of the male teams was unthinkable (I reckon we had a weight advantage over the boys…. ). But we did it and to this day, are super proud of that. Again, back then it wasn’t broadcasted however, those who were in the rowing circle were super supportive, extremely helpful, and recognized us as challengers.
Competing in long distant events was w-a-y different than it is today. Back in the 80’s, our hydration usually came in the form of a gallon jug of water (from the supermarket) with a pinch of salt added. We had a system, when one of us needed a drink during a race, that person had to shout out. We would then count down from 10, on 10, the person who needed a drink would get the break for maybe 10 seconds and then resume rowing. Being in the bow seat, I would give her a heads up when I would resume from a water break so she was prepared. But wait, it gets better! Someone would eventually create the hydration tube for our water jugs! Absolute classic!!! -> We would drop a long surgical tube into the jug, run it from the jug, up our back, and then through the strap of our swimsuit. This hose would dangle in place until we needed it. The tube had a bite grip to release water when needed.
At the end of our lifesaving careers came The Asay boat was born. We were fortunate that Kim was able to purchase one, and alas … The Jersey Girls boat was being used in the local events by the Jersey Girls. It wasn’t easy to shift from a heavy wooden Hankins to a lighter ‘Asay’ but we did it.
Kim & I were both part of the Monmouth County All Women’s Team to compete and win the first All Women’s LifeGuard Tournament. I still have the ‘championship’ gear awarded to the winning team. Copies of the local newspaper attached.
I’m now living in New Zealand. Kim is living in Puerto Rico.
Images provided by Linda Cotter.