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Iron Women: The Lifesavers on the Hook

Female lifeguards gather at Sandy Hook, Gateway National Recreation Area; compete in All-Women Lifeguard Tournament

The National Park Service hosted the 27th Annual All-Women Lifeguard Tournament at the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area on Wednesday, July 27. 

The event is a matter of patrol pride and also to showcase the high level of fitness and skill women bring to surf-lifeguarding.  The Tournament was suggested and , Jill Friedman and Carl Martinez.

"When I was a young guard the only opportunity for competition for the women was something called the Mermaid Relay and while they didn't really mean anything by that ... it really did affect us ..." said  Friedman, today a Jones Beach lifeguard and supervisor. Friedman was encouraged by Martinez to push for the tournament and the National Park Service eventually agreed.

Though he is modest, refusing to be recognized as a significant figure in the lore of the competition, organizers, participants and beach patrol supervisors, acknowledge that Martinez, donning his trademark button up shirt and tie, is the heart and soul of the yearly event to celebrate women's growing and important role on our American beaches.

There were 10 events within the tournament, including the most intensive competition, the Ironwoman event, which entailed a run, a swim, a paddle and a final sprint. "I'm exhausted just watching these gals," said Dan Brown of Manahawkin.  "They make me want to go work out or run or something ... but the bottom line is I'm glad they're there every time I go to the beach with my kids.  Of course they're important and capable, regardless of their sex."

The Tournament coincided this year with a Coca-Cola sponsored event, America’s Playgrounds, a celebration of the country's National Park System.  Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was on hand to receive a $10,000 grant from the softdrink company's Live Positively initiative to support the Sandy Hook Unit.

Kayte Christensen, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend was also on hand to host a WNBA clinic for members of the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore.

A full list of winning guards and patrols will be available shortly.  Check back to Middletown Patch for a full report. And next time you go the beach, thank a lifeguard. She'll be pleased to hear it.

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