'The Water Gets Rougher, People Must Be Careful'
Now 19, Farley has become a seasoned lifeguard veteran who says she will continue lifeguarding the beaches of Rockaway until she finishes college, where she is a pre-med student intent on becoming a psychiatrist.
Farley stopped by The Wave this week to talk about the dedication and hard work the Rockaway lifeguards
put into their task each and every summer. So often, talk of lifeguards on the peninsula is negative, filled with unanswered questions about missed rescues and accusations against the Department of Parks and Recreation that range from the selection and training of those who safeguard the beaches to the cronyism and mismanagement by their bosses. Most locals would agree that there is a lifeguard shortage, although a spokesperson for the city agency told The Wave that there are more lifeguards on duty this year than ever before. For Foley, however, a lifeguard shortage just means that the existing lifeguards patrolling the
beaches have to work that much harder to ensure the safety of the thousands who attend the beaches every weekend.
Farley, who works on Beach 106 Street, says that most of the water rescues and drownings have involved people who are not from Rockaway, but rather from other areas of the city who may not know how to swim and handle themselves in a rip tide as well as the locals who grew up on the beaches.
She warns, however, that people should always be careful regardless of how well they are able to swim.
"The water starts to get a lot rougher around 3 p.m. and people must be careful."
She also adds that she believes that the swimming hours should be expanded slightly for those who come home from work and want to take a dip. One of her arguments is that local residents are going to head into the ocean after hours, whether or not lifeguards are present.
Farley began working as a lifeguard at 16 while swimming competitively for Christ the King High School. She currently attends St. Francis College and majors in biology and psychology, and credits the swimming team for her success as a lifeguard.
"The swimming team definitely helped," she says. "It made the training easier on me, but I could see how a lot of people could find the training hard."
The hard work Farley says, doesn't stop there. All lifeguards, she continues, must go through a daily workout routine to ensure they are kept on their toes should a critical scenario play out on the beach that day.
The workout includes a run from Beach 106 to Beach 112 Street and back. They then run again to Beach 108 Street, head into the water and then swim back to Beach 105 Street. Then to round out the daily regimen, they go through their CPR and first aid training drills.
Farley loves her job.
"It is a great experience and I've met a lot of people. We are like a big family," she says. "There are things you learn as a lifeguard that could be used outside of work if you ever see someone in trouble."
In the meantime, Farley gets to use those skills on the beach when she must get into the water to save a life.
Just last month, a brother and sister got caught in a tide, she recounts, and it took several lifeguards to respond and rescue the siblings.
"I never get nervous in the water," she states. "It took five lifeguards to save them because they got stuck in a rip tide and additional help was needed."
She says that Beach 106 Street has seen fewer water rescues than a more congested beach like the one on Beach 116 Street where, she explains, there are more people who do not know how to swim as well as the locals who populate other beaches.
Farley would like to see more people in the area become interested in swimming and says the pool in the expected YMCA facility should help a lot in teaching the youth of the area how to swim at an early age.
The target lifeguard number for the New York Department of Parks and Recreation is 1,200 lifeguards each season. They currently have 1,150 enrolled and officials believe the 1,200 target could be reached as early as next summer.
One thing is for sure, count Farley in for next summer.