Ronnie Ayres 1986-1997, 99, 02, 06, 08
Thousands of lifeguards have served the beach in Wildwood Crest, but it takes a certain kind of person to leave a lasting legacy like the one left by Ronnie Ayres. Having worked in the three different decades, Ron was able to make an impact on the beach patrol and the countless number of guards he worked with along the way. We are happy to be able to share with you some of Ronnie's stories from his time on the beach as well as the exciting life experiences he's had after the Crest.
What made you join the beach patrol?
Temple University Swim Coach, Tom Popdan said it would be a good way to get in shape for the college season.
What are some of your best memories from your years with the WCBP?
Training for the events, swimming, paddling, rowing and the time spent on the water. The camaraderie with the guards and the cast of characters that have worn the orange and blue.
Tell us about your life after the beach.
From ‘86 to ‘89, working the beach flowed perfectly with college and after the ‘89 summer I moved to Encinitas in Southern California and was fortunate to grab a Lieutenant position with the Encinitas Lifeguard Service. Protecting the Encinitas Beaches on 24 hour call year round included all the water in the city. So besides large surf rescues and cliff falls and boating emergencies, we were also responsible for the rivers which would occasionally flood and you know people love to try to drive across flooded rivers.
Lots of sketchy action in those days, with some highlights being jumping out of a Coast Guard helicopter into the ocean and a river rescue where I launched off the roof of a fire truck that put me in position to save 2 people standing on the roof of their pickup in a flash flood. In 1991 we were the first the agency in California to utilize wave runners for rescue scenarios and trained with the Hawaiian Lifeguards who had just begun to implement them. But after a couple years, I decided to move back East and found a situation that put me back on the beach patrol for a few more years.
After the summer of '97 I moved to Maui and found my skills were needed in the restaurant and wine industry on the island. Working for some of the most iconic spots in Hawaii, Roy's and Mama's Fish House as Wine Buyer and sommelier being the most notable stints. Evening schedules left the daytime open for time in the water and exploring the beautiful island of Maui.
I quickly became involved with racing Outrigger Canoes with a couple of the notorious canoe clubs on Maui and training for and racing in the World Championship race, 42 miles from Molokai to Oahu became an obsession. Becoming familiar with the Hawaiian Islands from a seat in an Outrigger Canoe is impossible to describe. I was fortunate to have teammates and friends around me who had the same passion for adventure and between surfing and racing canoes in the islands I learned a lot real fast.
In 2007, I took a year away from the food and beverage scene to work on a performance sailing catamaran which finally satisfied one of the reasons I moved to the islands. But again came the itch to make a change and after “One More Summer” on the Crest beach patrol in 2008, this time it was Lake Tahoe in Northern California.
It was an exciting time and in 2010, as co-owner, I opened a Cafe/ Standup Paddleboard rental and retail shop on the water in North Lake Tahoe called Watermans Landing. We developed programs that I wanted to imitate the Junior Lifeguard programs I knew from the Crest Beach and it worked. We became a headquarters for paddling in Tahoe, bought our own outrigger canoe, started the Junior Waterman program and built a great seasonal business that still kills it!
At that same time I began racing Standup Paddleboards and aligned with the brand, Tahoe SUP, first as a sponsored racer but I also quickly became an employee, getting involved with the marketing efforts. Writing copy, content and running social media, grew into helping direct the brands image and sales. The sport was pretty new and Tahoe SUP had introduced the first boards built specifically for touring and paddling longer distances as the the industry had only seen oversized surfboards till then.
The racing scene got me traveling around the country, representing the brand and supporting our growing dealer base. In 2012 we developed a marketing concept called EXPLORE Project, which myself and an a couple other team members traveled to numerous paddling destinations with film crews and made short films about the adventure and the locations. To say the least, it was a ton of fun, paddling new zones, contributing to the production of the projects, writing stories about the trips for industry magazines and meeting people from all over the place.
Over this past year, I have been spending more time on the East Coast, closer to home and it's been great to be around my old friends and of course, spending time in the Crest around my travel. You might have seen the LXV Outdoor sprinter van I frequently drive, parked around the island. LXV is the parent company now for the 3 paddle board brands, Tahoe SUP, KM Hawaii, and Fish Stalker.
How has the beach patrol impacted your life?
So many ways. But one for sure is having an understanding of life threatening moments and having the ability to do something about it. It has come in handy many times over, in the ocean and out.
It was always fun to come back to the beach patrol and jump right into the lifeguard race scene. The level of the athletes within the Crest beach alone always created an intense but friendly environment of competition. With the likes of Bic Murphy, Joe Maloy, Terry McGovern, John Maloy and many more, the Crest was always considered a contender on any Friday night race in South Jersey. Putting in the time on the water to prepare for rowing, surf dashing, paddling and swimming races is always what I miss most about guarding.
The friendships I have made there will last my whole life.
What advice would you give a young guard today?
Absorb as much knowledge as you can from veteran guards and keep your eyes on the water. It also has much to teach you.