OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Stephen Waters, Reflecting On The Job

OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Stephen Waters, Reflecting On The Job
Stephen Waters is pictured during one of his five seasons on the beach patrol. Submitted Photo

(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 — When you work on the Ocean City Beach Patrol, you are taught from day one that you are an ambassador for the resort. Guards are easily the most visible workers on the beach and as such, are the first point of contact for visitors seeking both information and insight during their piece of summer.

Stephen Waters found that out early on in his OCBP career when a beach patron approached and, in all sincerity, asked if this was “the only ocean here?”

As politely as he could, Stephen answered that “there is one other (pointing to the west) 3,000 miles that way.”

Stephen had no intention of trying out for the beach patrol when he hit town in the summer of 1983. Between finishing Loch Raven High School and starting his studies at Towson University, the Baltimore native was really only looking for a fun summer. But following a chance meeting with a guard named Jane Merringer, who “suggested I try out,” Stephen decided to give the upcoming OCBP test a try and “the rest is history.”

For the next five summers, Stephen would guard the beaches of Ocean City. His career saw him “mostly in the 50’s, but one year on 142nd Street.”  He certainly had his share of rescues, adventures and the interesting question or two, but Stephen always came back to that lesson of being the town’s ambassador and what it really meant.

“The biggest thing I think of about that time, is what a huge responsibility was put on a 20-year-old. This is the place where the beach patrons entrust their lives, and lives of their children, to you. If I took the time to think about it then, the stress would have been huge.”

Most guards would point to their most difficult rescue, or their biggest competition victory as their most memorable day with the OCBP. Stephen approached the question differently.

“I think the most memorable day for me was my last day on the beach patrol,” he said. “I knew it was my last year and you reflect on the comradery you shared with the crews over the years. How many people you have pulled in, and that they may not be here today if you weren’t there for them. For me I didn’t think of those things much until it reached its finality.”

The “real world” caught up with Stephen, as it does most guards. As he finished college and the patrol, he set off to find a career and start a family. He returns whenever he can, but now he is the visitor.

“My youngest son and I were at the last OCBP alumni weekend,” he said. “He sat with me and watched a documentary about being a guard and the training involved.  Afterwards, he said ‘Dad, I had no idea what you had to do and what great shape you had to be in.’  That was a good moment for us.”

Stephen Waters now lives in Phoenix, Md. and works in real estate. He still enjoys the beach and spending time with his kids.