Back at the beginning of August, East Hampton Town lifeguard Lucy Kohlhoff was enjoying the sun in Manhattan Beach, California, where she and the rest of the town guards were competing in the United States Lifesaving Association National Tournament. Kohlhoff went on to be crowned champion of the female beach flags event the weekend of August 7 and, as a result, was asked two weeks ago to join the USLA National team at the International Surf Rescue Challenge in Onjuku Beach, Japan, from September 19 to 23.
Due to a prior commitment with her high school soccer team, Kohlhoff had to decline the USLA’s invitation. The 16-year-old, who is going into her junior year at her hometown Bronxville Public High School in Westchester, summers in Montauk with her family every year. She had been a junior lifeguard for four years before becoming a full-time guard at Gin Beach this summer.
Kohlhoff, who has played soccer since the fourth grade, said she could end up regretting the choice to stay home.
“It is really an honor for them to pick me for that team,” she said. “I’ve never had to go to Japan, but it could have been a really good opportunity. I just don’t think the timing is right.”
The beach flags event is one of the more popular events in lifeguard competitions. The competition starts with a number of guards lying down, either on their stomach or back, and on the whistle they have to run and search for a flag that is hidden underneath the sand.
Kohlhoff, who is a year-round soccer player, said her normal training keeps her fit for lifeguarding. Beach flags, she said, is all about strategy.
“We do some stuff during the summer to prepare ourselves for the competition, but nothing too extreme,” Kohlhoff said. “You just have to know the strategies.”
Kohlhoff said the get-up, or when the guards stand up after lying down to start, is the key part to winning beach flags.
“You have to have good initial speed, which I guess is what makes me good at it,” Kohlhoff said. “The get-up is what sets me apart.”