Some of the Canadian J-1 visa lifeguards from the 2023 season. Photo: Ocean City Beach Patrol

OC Beach Patrol Travels to Canada to Solve Lifeguard Shortage

Ocean City, Maryland has had a well-documented lifeguard shortage on its popular 10-mile stretch of beach. This past summer, Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) had to make an alarming number of rescues due to riptides. Also this year, because of lifeguard staffing challenges, OCBP’s lifeguards decreased in the third week of August as the beach season wound down.

This fall, the focus is already on recruiting a good crop of lifeguards for next summer. To that end, OCBP Captain Butch Arbin says the department went outside the box—and outside the United States—to try to fill their 2024 roster.

Prospective Canadian OCBP lifeguards take an off-site swimming test in Montreal. Photo: OCBP

Typically, Beach Patrol hires more than a dozen Canadian J-1 visa students, but until now they’ve been required to travel to Maryland for testing. So this time, they brought the Pre-Employment Physical Skills Evaluations right to Canada.

OCBP leaders traveled to Montreal last week, bringing Beach Patrol testing to prospective Canadian lifeguards. 31 wannabe lifeguards reported to testing at McGill University. 21 passed all portions of the test and were offered an appointment to Surf Rescue Training Academy.

The lifeguard hopefuls did running and swimming tests using a track and an indoor pool. They had to complete a 400 meter sprint in 75 seconds or less and a 500 meter swim in 10 minutes or less.

Lifeguard applicants take a 400-meter sprint test on the track at McGill University in Montreal. Photo: OCBP

Arbin says the 10 who did not pass were there to see what it was all about, and plan to travel to one of OCBP’s spring off-site tests. The 21 appointees are the best number Beach Patrol has seen in “very many years”.

A previous round of three tests in Ocean City back in August yielded 14 hired lifeguard appointees. Arbin tells Chesapeake Bay Magazine that only 35 percent of those that registered for the tests showed up. Of the 35 percent who did take the test, only 40 percent were able to pass it. Most of those who failed had little or no swimming ability, Arbin says.

In all, OCBP has 35 appointees headed to the training academy. There will be more off-site testing conducted away from Ocean City in the spring, in locations like York, Pennsylvania to Annapolis, Maryland.

New lifeguard applicants do not need lifeguarding experience and can earn up to $18,500 during the season. To learn more about lifeguarding with OCBP, go to

-Meg Walburn Viviano