It’s been 43 years since Tim Ferry first became a lifeguard along Delaware shore, and more specifically at Bethany Beach. More recently, for the past 14 years, Ferry has been the lifeguard captain in Fenwick Island, and this weekend, after 43 years, Ferry will be walking off into his final summer sunset as a lifeguard.
He will be stepping away from the day-to-day operations of the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol, which includes hiring, training and certifying lifeguards, as well as working within the budget established by the Town.
“Being a part of this for 43 years has changed my life,” Ferry said of his time as a lifeguard. “I have made some lifelong friends, met some great people. I am very fortunate, and this has all been very rewarding.”
Ferry this week took the chance to reflect back on his time first starting as a lifeguard, back when he was 15 years old, in 1976. He was a guard for eight years before being promoted to lieutenant of the Bethany Beach Patrol. It was a post he held for seven years.
“I worked my way up,” Ferry recalled of his early years. “I became a crew chief, and have really seen it all from all different angles over the years. It has been quite the experience. Getting to know so many people over the years, watching kids grow up who then worked for me…
“It is quite possible that I have worked with close to 1,000 different guards over all these years. Many of the kids I hired, I have been asked to provide professional references for their jobs. Some became state police officers, FBI agents, NCIS, teachers and even an international liaison.”
Of course, during his time on the beaches, Ferry has seen his fair share of water rescues — both ones he helped and ones in which he made the rescues himself.
“Not sure where I would start on those…” said Ferry in reminiscing on what he estimated were close to 500 rescues in his career. “The one that sticks out probably came from the late ’80s. My stand partner and I had 43 rescues in one day in Bethany.
“This one — we were stationed at the breezeway. It was the biggest pull of my career, definitely the hardest and most rewarding. It was tough with the current. The guy had gotten out too far, and was close to the jetty.
“You really have to respect the ocean with these types of things. My captain and lieutenant were all on the shore, watching me, and were waiting to help in case I needed it. It was really what being a lifeguard was all about. I can remember the events of that rescue as if it were yesterday.”
Over the course of his time on the lifeguard stand and in charge of the beach patrol Ferry has also gotten Sussex County’s lifeguards more involved in the competitive aspect of the job. He himself has been to several national championships in which he competed in the open and age-specific categories. He even stepped up onto the world stage, competing in the 2000 World Championships in Australia, where he finished third, and again in 2002 in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he brought home a second-place crown.
“I have always prided myself on staying healthy and competing at a high level,” Ferry confessed. “I have always looked forward to the training aspect with these lifeguards, and I have been fortunate to be a part of that.”
Ferry helped to create the Sussex County Lifesaving Association close to 20 years ago. It is a group that combines the lifeguards from around Sussex County to train and compete at national championship events. It includes all of the beach patrols in the county, and the group perennially finishes in the top five — and Ferry said he was “very proud of that.”
“The group has definitely benefitted all of the towns,” said Ferry.
However, he said he is most proud of his contributions to the community as a whole with his career on the beaches.
“I am very proud to have been able to have an impact on a bunch of levels of lifeguarding,” Ferry continued. “I have been a part of education my whole professional life, and all of it has been very rewarding.”
For now, Ferry plans to continue as a school counselor in the Worcester County School District in Maryland, while also spending some time with his wife, Jacque, and daughter Logan.
“I am looking forward to doing some other things now with my wife and daughter, who have been so supportive all of these years,” Ferry concluded. “I am looking forward to stepping away from the daily, day-to-day grind of it all.
“I have made some amazing friends over these decades… Gosh, when you think of it, it’s been five decades since the ’70s. It has been a great opportunity and has been an amazing ride — 43 years is a long time.”
By Jason Feather