VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach Lifeguard Association gives two separate beach attendance numbers each month. One number estimates the total park attendance during regular business hours, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. A second number estimates attendance during extended hours, 5-7 p.m.
The numbers are separate to promote accurate month-to-month and year-to-year comparisons, since lifeguards only work extended hours for those specific months authorized and paid for by the county.
May 2021 did not set an attendance record when looking only at regular business hours. It missed the record by about 43 people. May 2021 attendance was an estimated 91,900, compared to 91,943 in May 2020.
However, when extended hours are added in, May 2021 broke the record. City lifeguards started extended hours during Memorial Day weekend on May 23. They will be on duty until 7 p.m. during the summer months.
During extended hours, attendance nearly doubled, from 3,285 in May 2020 to 6,390 in May 2021.
So the total May 2021 attendance of 98,290 surpassed the May 2020 record-setting attendance of 95,228.
Those counts are only for park visitors at Jaycee Park, Humiston Park, South Beach Park, including boardwalks and areas immediately north and south of each park. However, the VBLA observes in its latest monthly report that “beach patrons are spreading out along our four miles of city beach, filling in the approximately one mile distance between each of the three lifeguard towers. As a result, many of people who visit the beach are not counted in our attendance numbers.”
That spreading out adds another concern for lifeguards, who worry that more people on the beach outside the guarded areas increases the likelihood of accidents and drownings. The VBLA continues to urge, as they have in the past, that swimmers stay near lifeguard towers, and only swim during guarded hours.
This concern is magnified when strong rip tides are present. According to the VBLA, sandbars at South Beach and Jaycee Park Beach are now producing powerful rip currents. The VBLA invites swimmers to ask lifeguards about rip currents before getting into the water. City lifeguards rescued five people from rip currents in May, bringing the total number of water rescues to 13 in 2021.
Lifeguards responded to 17 medical calls in May, of which one was serious enough that EMS had to be called, and two minor medical calls occurred during extended hours. There were no fatalities. Most of the minor medical calls were from man-o-war stings, slip and falls, and bumps and bruises.
Also in May, the average ocean water temperature rose to 76 degrees, and sea turtle nests appeared in greater numbers.
The mission of the VBLA is to promote lifeguarding and water safety in Vero Beach and the surrounding communities.
For more information, contact the VBLA at VeroBeachLA@Yahoo.com or (908) 797-8725, or visit www.VBLA.org. Donations are accepted to purchase equipment, supplies, and training for the lifeguards from the city of Vero Beach. Donations should be sent to VBLA, 1351 White Heron Lane, Vero Beach, FL 32963.