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Jul 29, 2011 11:52 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Governor Signs Law Allowing Jet Skis To Be Used For Beach Rescues

Aug 2, 2011 6:03 PM

It’s a tweak that lifeguards say has brought an archaic regulation up-to-date.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation sponsored by two local lawmakers on Friday that allows personal watercraft, commonly known as Jet Skis, to be used as rescue vehicles at public bathing beaches.

Until now, lifeguards were required to keep a surfboat at least 16 feet in length at every public beach in case it was needed for a rescue—and Jet Skis did not count as a substitute, according to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who represents the 
South Fork and sponsored 
the legislation along with Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

John Ryan Sr., East Hampton Town’s lifeguard training coordinator, said East End lifeguards have been using Jet Skis for rescues for about 10 years, but still stood to get in trouble if they did not have surfboats on-site. Mr. Ryan, whom Mr. Thiele credited with bringing the issue to his attention, called the oar-powered boats “useless” in general.

“They are not used to make rescues, to guard beaches anymore,” he said. “They’re archaic, they’re a toy.”

Mr. Ryan said at least four East End beaches have Jet Skis available: Edison Beach in Montauk, Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett, Main Beach in East Hampton and the Bridgehampton 
Tennis and Surf Club.

Evan Tiska, a lifeguard at the Bridgehampton Tennis and Surf Club, said Jet Skis are generally used for rescues of wind surfers, boaters and swimmers who have gotten stuck a significant distance away from shore.

“The Jet Ski would be for longer-distance operations,” he said, because it can travel fast and maneuver well, but takes time and more than one person to deploy. A paddleboard is preferable for short-distance rescues, he said.

Mr. Ryan, who is part of the Hampton Lifeguard Association, noted that the legislation does not mean surfboats can no longer be used, but simply allows Jet Skis to act as alternatives.

“A Jet Ski can get anywhere and operate inside the break to make rescues,” he added. “They’re perfect.”

“This legislation will save lives and I appreciate the efforts of the Hampton Lifeguard Association in gaining its passage,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release last week.

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