(Editor’s Note: The following is a series on the men and women who have spent their summers protecting all those who came to Ocean City for fun and safe vacation.)
OCEAN CITY — In 1977, Ray McDonald was ready to get out of Woodlawn. He’d finished with both high school and his high school sweetheart.
“Rather than lifeguard at Westview Swim Club for another summer, I decided to go to Ocean City and take the lifeguard test,” he said.
It might have seemed like a spur of the moment sort of thing, but Ray was actually very thoughtful about most things he did on beach patrol. During the try-out test, while everyone was sticking together and close in to the Inlet beach, McDonald, “decided to position myself out the furthest from the others to avoid being bunched up and kicked in the face. This allowed me to take advantage of the current and take a more direct route around the pier.”
That thoughtfulness and planning worked for him again when he found himself guarding on condo row and “smack dab in front of an oil barge which ran aground that winter during a Nor’easter.” A treacherous rip current had formed near it, but McDonald observed surfers using it, “as the most efficient way to get out beyond the waves. I reasoned it would be a good method to use if needed.” He did need it, when a father and daughter got caught in the rip and taken out to sea.
“Upon my arrival I pushed the buoy toward them and asked Dad to hold on and place his daughter between himself and the buoy and said lets enjoy the ride out,” McDonald said.
McDonald calmed them both as they began the process of making their way back in. Twenty minutes later, everyone was safe, and McDonald was thinking to himself “that was awesome.”
Four summers later, McDonald left the beach and headed to the real world, but “the people I worked with and met during my summers down the ocean, occupy a fond place in my heart.” McDonald now lives in Florida where he can be in the sunshine daily.