NAME: MICHELLE TOMAINO (KANTOR)

YEARS LIFEGUARDING: 25

LOCATION(S): MONMOUTH BEACH, NEW JERSEY

Oceanfront Lifeguard since 1995 (25yrs)

Teacher of Biological Sciences and mother of two

Married to Mike Tomaino who is also an Ocean Front Lifeguard since 1995 and now Lifeguard Supervisor at Monmouth County Park System Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park.

Monmouth County USLA, Secretary in the early 2000s

USLA National Champion Rower, and Runner

Regional and Local Champion Rower

How you got involved in the Lifesaving Service

My parents exposed me to every open water opportunity that they could growing up. Beach daily, Surf Trips, Boating, Fishing, and after being around the ocean that much. Loving the water and having the intrinsic nature to want to save and help lifeguarding was the only choice.

● Interest and passion for Surf Rescue

I’ve been lifeguarding since 1995 and grew up on the beach here in Monmouth Beach. I am a resident of Oceanport, New Jersey . I love the sport of lifeguarding love when it’s done for me and the life it’s given me. It has provided the backbone of who I am. It has given me confidence, bravery, leadership and now it’s my turn to mentor young people. To teach them how to lifeguard and problem solve and how to keep the public safe.

Being a young female I did not have many women lifeguards, only 1 or 2 per lifeguard crew. This pushed me to train hard among the males earning some of my most proud accomplishments as United States Lifesaving Association National Champion in both the Women’s Surf Boat, 4×100, and 3rd place overall in Beach Flags as well as many regional, and local competition championships. These competitions help hone rescue skills for on the job use.

I am glad to be a part of that evolution of females entering the oceanfront setting to save lives and compete. Here in Monmouth County we have a lot like our competitions that now include women in the roster. We the Gateway National Park All Women’s Lifeguard Tournament as well as our USLA nationals where our Monmouth county girls just own it  These young lifeguards women that are coming up knowing how to surf and ride waves, paddle.

I so enjoy mentoring the females on the job as I coach them on how to rescue a victim in the water, or how to identify a rip current . It is great to see them as they build confidence.Young females need these opportunities, they need to need exposure in a controlled way these leadership opportunities help mold them in life.  I’m so happy that I’m involved with that help in the formation of all lifeguards.

My predecessor Micheal ‘Spike’ Fowler lifeguard for 51 years did this for me, my only choice was to pass that love and mentorship to others younger than the crave the vocation of oceanfront lifeguarding for life. Spike taught us to identify problem provide solution and to be a proactive water watcher. keep a cool head when running rescue scenarios predict victims and react in an organized way. My Hope Is that my younger lifeguards can look up at me the way I have tried to emulate others like Michel Davidson, Janet Carbin and the George family. These classic Monmouth County lifeguards and competitors have impact on so many people.

I’m a teacher and I always say I picked being a teacher because I didn’t want to stop lifeguarding, through the years I met my husband, Michael,  Lifeguard Supervisor at Monmouth County Park System.

I have also been involved with the rules and guidelines of Monmouth County, USLA, being secretary in the early 2000s. I have met my best friends through lifeguarding.  The value of that friendship becomes deeper when you go through an experience within whether you are working out or saving lives.  One suggestion is that everyone needs to learn how to swim young children.

I’m a mother of two and I feel that’s the most important thing that we do with our children is teach them how to respect the ocean, gain ocean sense.  Every parent needs to take that seriously. Parents need to seek out situations so that their children learn how to experience the ocean in a positive way. A junior guards program is a great example of how young people can be watched and put in situations where they handle rip currents and gain confidence and experience.

● Descriptions of her own Surf Rescue experience(s)

Guidance and mentorship of young people who come to the beach wanting to lifeguard we teach them and expose them to all the skills, and opportunities we can to challenge their abilities and create confidence so during a rescue they can rely on their training, this confidence and our crew, which is a lot like a family.

● Advice to other women looking to become lifeguards

You can do it, Be brave, know the ocean, set your standards higher than those around you, be a role model to any gender, forgive yourself when you don’t reach every athletic goal and try again and use all equipment, Ask others to train with you. Be there to be a lifeguard and do it well, Love the ocean respect its power, Identify problem provide solution

Images Provided by Michelle Tomaino.