OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Bobby Libertini, Ocean Memories In His Own Words

OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Bobby Libertini, Ocean Memories In His Own Words
Bobby Libertini is pictured in the late-70s. 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 — I grew up in Catonsville and swam competitively in high school and college. My brother Jim had been a lifeguard in Daytona Beach. Additionally, my swimming buddies Mark Spence, Brandon Middleton, Glenn McGuire and I had learned about the Ocean City Beach Patrol from an older swimming friend Nick Burley. We were all athletic, ambitious and adventurous. So, we decided to all join the OCBP together. It was 1975 and the four of us started a training program with routine rigorous running and long distant swims in Liberty Reservoir and Marriottsville Quarry. We worked on this goal for a year.

In the summer of ‘76, we secured our first apartment in OC as roommates on Robin Drive ready to join the patrol. Since my high school let out much later, Mark, Glenn and Brandon were able to take the test before me. They each passed became members of the patrol. The pressure was on me as my test date was the last one scheduled, plus there were only three more positions remaining. To make things worse, I was committed to our summer rent and my parents only allowed me to live at the beach if I made the Patrol.

During the morning warm-ups prior to the test, I befriended another participant named Steve Dulkerian. We were the smallest of the 18 other applicants, and both of us were very nervous. The other guys had chests like beer kegs and legs like trees! They were all older, bigger, and hairier.  Everything turned out good though. Steve and I came in first in all of the events and we both made the squad. Having just turned 17, three weeks before the test, I was now one of the youngest members of the Patrol.

That first year, I was a rover, moving from stand to stand as needed. It wasn’t until the next year that I earned my own stand up north on “Condo Row” right in front of the Sheraton Hotel, which is now The Fountainbleu. During a Saturday Nor’easter, we had a miserable dark, rainy and gloomy day. All the guards were allowed to “pull-back” for shelter as long as they were able to maintain watch over their beaches. The Sheraton had a nice elevated shelter which made it easy for me to scan my area and other beaches both north and south. The waves were big and the current was overwhelming. It wasn’t a good beach day. I noticed two heads bobbing up and down past the breakers. They were just little kids treading water way past the wave breaks. They were going in and out of sight and drifting South fast with the current. I knew this was not going to be a good outcome and my heart was racing. I ran 3 or 4 blocks North from their location planning the right “tack” for the rescue and entered the water in front of the Golden Sands Condo on 106th Street. Help came from my teammate Tommy Pugh and we reached the brother and sister. We finally reached shore about a half mile south from my original sighting. The children actually helped save themselves by not panicking until our help arrived. I remember running back along the shoreline with the kids in hand, and so many people, who had been watching the action from their porches, were clapping and cheering.

The father of the two kids approached me afterwards and said they were unpacking for their vacation week while the kids went to play on the beach. He handed me $100 and said they were going home. I split it with Tom.

When I returned the next year, I was promoted to crew chief. My stand was up on 134th Street. My roommates, who all guarded on the Boardwalk beaches, would joke that I guarded on the North Pole. That was fine with me. I was extremely fortunate to meet so many super nice families, condo owners and friendly vacationers.

During my last two summers on the patrol, I continued as crew chief but now I was back on “Condo Row” sitting in front of the Carousel Hotel on 118th Street. It was during these years I was able to compete as part of the very first OCBP Traveling Lifeguard Olympic team. It was comprised of the best competitors from the beach patrol’s “in-house” crew competitions. The big event of the season was the Rehoboth Beach Patrol Olympics, a competition consisting of various swims, runs, and assorted relays. The last event of the day was called the “Iron Man,” which consisted of a combination of running, paddleboarding, and swimming. I ended up winning the Ironman and the points propelled Ocean City to a final First Place standing. The Iron Man Trophy was presented to me on the Boardwalk by the mayor of Rehoboth Beach.

Those five years on the OCBP were the very best. I made great friendships from a common and shared passion, all while serving a purpose to help and assist others. I spent my summers living and working with my best friends.

And it got better. During my last summer on the patrol, I met Sue on the Carousel beach. Three years later I would propose to her on the same beach. and we’ve been married ever since. I am a proud member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol and grateful that my roommates and wife remain today as my best friends.

Bobby and Sue split their time between Jacksonville and their beach home in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. That Iron Man Trophy stands today in their home library and brings back tremendous memories of comradery, teamwork and pride.