(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 — The mountains of Frostburg are pretty far removed from the waves of Ocean City. But that’s where Wendy Miller was attending college when she made the decision to head to the beach for the summer of 1991.
Wendy was just 21 when she arrived in Ocean City and quickly settled into the beach life working a summer retail job. At school, she played field hockey and lacrosse and loved working out. She was in good shape and a natural competitor. It was for this reason that one day while she was laying out on the beach, “a friend of my brothers, Skip Lee, an officer on Ocean City Beach Patrol rode by on the four-wheeler, stopped by to say hi and said, ‘hey you should try out for beach patrol this weekend.’ I went home and called my parents and said I think I’m going to give it a try. When I showed up at tryouts I remember sitting on the Boardwalk waiting to do the swim with the sounds from the arcade blasting behind me. Then I heard the water was 58 degrees.”
She passed the test and found herself in the north end of town. “The first rescue I did was on 134th Street. It was a neck/back injury and I had to use the Hawaiian maneuver that I had just learned. With that pull I gained confidence and really felt I could do anything.”
Over the course of the next four summers, Wendy’s confidence grew as did her standing in the OCBP. She was named crew chief and took up the stand on 58th Street right next to a particularly treacherous rip that would open with brutal regularity.
“On days when the rip was roaring, Matt McGinnis, who sat on 60th Street, and I would go in numerous times a day. We almost always went in together because so many people would get caught in it. One particular day we had gone in so many times and it was so strong, that I decided to get the land line from my car. The landline is a spool of rope that you attach to your buoy and guards on shore pull you in to the beach. It’s mainly used in competitions. Lt. Warren Williams was driving by and I asked him to sit my stand for a few minutes while I ran back to get the land line.”
She continued, “As I was coming back from my car, I heard two whistles and knew that Warren was in the water. When I got on the beach I saw him out there with about 6 to 10 people stuck in the rip. I hooked the land line to my buoy and swam it out. When I got there, Warren had everyone around and he told them all to grab our buoys and hang on tight because they were about to get a ride. I waved my hand to the shore and we did get a serious ride in. When we got to the shore, I realized a bunch of beach patrons had helped pull all of us in. I will never forget that day.”
Wendy sums up her experience on the beach patrol in this way: “I have had many jobs over the years but my years on the OCBP remain my favorite. As a woman I gained so much confidence personally and athletically. I was part of the group of women who got to travel and compete in all female competitions. I also made it to Nationals in 1994 for four different events. But more than that, I made great friendships and memories. We are lifeguards for life.”
Wendy lives year-round in Ocean City with her family and works out professionally.