(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 – Doug Wadler probably did not stand out to the officers who were testing a group of Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) recruits one early summer morning in 1981.
Wadler was always a pretty soft spoken fellow and appeared to be just an average guy. After the initial 500-yard swim from the inlet rock pile to the pier, however, the officers quickly took notice. Doug and his friend, Phil Schoepke, flew past the crowd to finish well ahead of their fellow recruits. He had taken the day off of work to try out, but after this start, he “never considered doing anything but being on beach patrol for the next three summers.”
Wadler had been spending his summers lifeguarding at pools in Montgomery County, when Phil, his “YMCA swimming teammate in Bethesda, Md. told me that he wanted to try out for the OCBP. When he asked if I wanted to join him, I said, ‘Sure’.”
After passing the beach patrol test, and gaining the attention of the captain and staff with his swimming skills, Wadler found himself guarding the densely packed beaches in midtown.
“At some point, I worked on every lifeguard stand between 32nd Street and 49th Street,” he recalled.
By 1983, he had risen through the ranks to become a Crew Chief on 45th Street. Those crowded beaches provided Wadler with a lot of rescues and “lost child” reports including one where “an angry man on the beach told me that he couldn’t find his 17-year-old son, and he accused me of letting him drown. As he became more belligerent, we continued to send increasingly urgent messages up and down the beach. About an hour later, we found the guy’s son, chatting up a cute girl in a bikini that he had met on the sand.”
But for Wadler his greatest memories always centered on swimming. Particularly the time when fellow OCBP guard, “Charlie Chiamardas came up with a truly, crazy idea to swim the entire length of Ocean City to help raise funds for the beach patrol. And, on a miserable, rainy day in August 1981, we did it – swimming from the Ocean City Inlet to the Delaware state line.” It was a legendary swim that few have matched since.
Like so many others on the beach patrol, Doug’s summers had to come to an end with “real life” and careers. Of his three summers guarding the beaches in Ocean City, Doug sums it all up by saying that the “OCBP meant tremendous friends.”
Wadler is currently Regulatory Counsel for the FDA. He and his wife, Marie, have two grown sons and they continue to visit Ocean City several times a year.