All five Rye lifeguards were no-shows on Labor Day

Next year: A new supervisor and expanded swimming area

Jack Driscoll

Rye beachgoers were stunned on Labor Day to find the town lifeguard stations vacated.

The results: (1) Rye is in the market for a new lifeguard supervisor; (2) the situation is unlikely to recur.

Rye's five lifeguards apparently asked for the day off, and their requests were granted by head lifeguard, Jared Pease, who didn't notify beach commissioners. The chairman of the Beach Commission, Mike Labrie, returned from a trip out of the country and was told by Pease that the lifeguards "had bailed on him at the last minute."

"We'll be in the market for a new supervisor," Labrie told the Rye Selectmen at a meeting on September 22. "Next year we'll get a commitment from all lifeguards to stay through Labor Day," said Labrie, speaking on behalf of the other commissioners, Jack M. Panopoulos and Tim Borden who also participated in the season-end report to the Selectmen.

Rye provides five lifeguards each summer, two at Wallis Sands, two at Jenness Beach (at end of Cable Road) and one at Sawyer's Beach, south of Jenness State Beach, whose lifeguards are hired by the state.

It also was learned that one of the Jenness lifeguards failed to appear on a busy Saturday the week before the holiday.

Putting aside the holiday incident, Labrie said that "overall they did a good job and made some good saves." He said next year an effort will be made "to keep them split rather than having two in a chair."

Particularly difficult for the lifeguards was managing the space allotted for swimming and surfing. "The swim area has to be expanded," Selectman Joe Mills insisted. Chairman Craig Musselman and Selectwoman Priscilla Jenness concurred. Presently flag markers designate areas limited to swimmers only. A public meeting on the issue is planned for this fall.

Labrie also reported a new concern, the appearance recently of jet skiers, apparently helping train new surfboarders. It is unsure how they accessed the surfing area, since motorized vehicles are not allowed on beaches. One report said a jet ski trailer backed down an access road in the Pirates Cove area one early evening. By law motorized vehicles in the water must be at least 150 feet from swimmers. Labrie said he considered the development "very dangerous".

In addition Labrie said there is a need to address teaching arrangements, such as summer schools, on beaches, as well as vendors at the beach who are allowing boards to be tried out. Attempts will be made to contact area surf shops before next summer.

Musselman said there is a need to design a permit for special beach events, such as the recent body-surfing competition. He said it would be in the town's interest to require insurance certificates.

Turning to the issue of dogs on the beach, Labrie reported that "there appears to be an increasing problem," regarding cleaning up by owners, controlling dogs and adhering to posted hours for walking dogs.

Chief Kevin Walsh agreed but said many concerned dog owners are trying to educate violators. Meanwhile, he said, in the previous seven days, his officers had issued 22 tickets to those violating the hours for walking dogs.

Speaking of tickets, Chief Walsh also reported that a surfer had recently been cited for intruding on the swimmers' area. "And he paid," said Walsh.

October, 2008