Jul 20, 2021

Teen Scene

By Lori Draz, Carina Muller and Conor Doogan

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s Teen Scene welcomes its first-ever pair of authors: 16-year-old Carina Muller, a rising junior from Holmdel who is homeschooled, and 16-year-old Conor Doogan, a rising junior at Christian Brothers Academy. Summer is going full steam ahead, and the beaches are packed again. While so many kids are off on vacations or in summer camps, there is a team of fit and fearless youth who keep our swimmers safe through their service as lifeguards. The huge responsibility of saving a life is overwhelming for most, yet so many young men and women answer the call, earning not just confidence but the lessons of teamwork and selflessness, all while building strong, enduring friendships. Here are Carina and Conor’s stories. 

Carina Muller

I grew up swimming with the Red Bank YMCA, so lifeguarding seemed like the obvious job choice. I was 13 when I first joined Sea Bright’s Junior Guard program. I thought it would be a great way to meet new people and have some fun socializing with other swimmers. However, once the summer had ended, I knew this was an operation I wanted to be a part of. What I love about the Junior Guard, and later our Nipper programs, are they’re extremely educational while being fun. Even for an 8-year-old, getting familiar with how rough the ocean can be and gaining a respect for the water can save their lives and the lives of others. 

While these programs helped me prepare for the medical and technical aspects of the job, and club swimming helped me with the physical, nothing could have prepared me for the mental parts of this job. It truly requires excellence in all areas. Movies may glorify lifeguards or even put comedic, unrealistic spins on the job, but in the end, lifeguards are dealing with life or death. I often think when I am sitting alone that I am truly responsible for so many people’s lives. Although this is terrifying, it is also the time when all the strenuous training kicks in. I am confident and comforted knowing my equally highly trained coworkers have my back. Having strong trust in those you work with and good communication is crucial in this type of job. 

What I love most about this job is knowing that no one really knows or cares about the struggles in my life. All they know is that I am someone who wants to help. They may never really know me, yet just seeing me in my uniform gives them confidence. They literally trust me with their lives. When it happens, nothing feels more gratifying than having a kid come up and saying thank you for looking out for them.

Another thing is that thanks to this job, I and many other lifeguards have decided to go into the medical field. 

I think, deep down, everyone wants to be needed and to make a difference. Lifeguarding might not be for everyone but in finding a job that amplifies your strengths, I believe anyone can make a huge impact of the community and themself.  

Conor Doogan

A love for the water is not just a love for the pool; it’s also a love for the ocean. My family and I have been members of Surfrider Beach Club ever since I was born in 2005, and my summers have been filled with body surfing and swimming until dusk.

In 2015, the Junior Guard program run by Sea Bright Ocean Rescue announced the program was going to be held at Surfrider Beach Club. We were always there anyway, so my parents signed me and my siblings up for four weeks of camp. It was such a blast that I did it again in 2016.

Then in the summer of 2018, I joined the Sea Bright Junior Guards. I signed up on a whim, thinking SBJG would be a fun way to make new friends and give me a change of pace during my summer. I had no idea that joining would be the start of life-long friendships and valuable lessons.

After Junior Guards and the Nippers in 2019 and 2020, I finally became a lifeguard at Sea Bright. It is a wonderful job, but there is a lot of mental stress knowing that every day, I have people’s lives in my hands. It is an immeasurable responsibility but knowing that every single lifeguard on staff will always have your back makes you feel invincible.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and this job has taught me that there is something for everyone, no matter what. During your 8:30 am to 5:30 pm days, you always have a task that will ultimately help keep the public safe. After two and a half summers with Sea Bright Ocean Rescue, I can undoubtedly say our team motto would be to never quit, and if something does not work out, you always come back and kill it the next time.

Lifeguarding for Sea Bright has truly been one of the most humbling experiences of my life so far. Saving lives has made me realize that life is precious and cannot be taken for granted. The way each and every one of my coworkers cares for me and each other ultimately defines the family aspect of Sea Bright Ocean Rescue.