Amanda Calabrese’s passion for lifeguarding earned her a trip across the Atlantic Ocean last month.
The East Hampton High School senior was one of a handful of lifeguards selected to represent the United States and the World Junior Lifesaving Championships in La Grande Motte, France. Calabrese traveled to France, with her family, September 12 through the 22nd, helping the U.S. compete against elite lifeguarding squads from around the world in the town located in the French Riviera on the Mediterranean Sea. She was the only U.S. team member from the Northeast, as the rest of the team was from either California or Florida.
The U.S. team finished 13th out of 22 countries, but more importantly, was sitting in seventh place after the beach events. The championships also included a series of pool events, which Calabrese said the U.S. team doesn’t specifically train for or specialize in, choosing to focus on the beach-related events. She said her team was most proud of finding itself among the top 10 after the beach events.
Calabrese, who works as a lifeguard at Ditch Plains in Montauk during the summer, has been a standout competitor for the past few years for the Hamptons Lifesaving Association’s junior team, going to nationals on several occasions, and competed with the adult team in the open division at nationals in Virginia Beach this year. At the 2013 nationals, Calabrese met Jay Butki, the national coach of the open adult team, who told her she should apply for a spot on the junior team. In July, she found out she’d been invited to be part of the team.
In France, Calabrese made the finals in six of the eight beach events she participated in for the under-19 team. She was fourth overall in beach flags, which she said is her favorite event, and seventh in the two-man rescue board race, with teammate Emma Noble. In the four-man sprint relay, Calabrese finished eighth, with teammates Tess Farrar, Molly Haine and Shannon Snell. She was 10th in the individual rescue board race, and 11th in the “oceanwoman” relay, which includes a distance swim, a distance race on a surf ski (which Calabrese did), a distance paddle, and a distance run. Calabrese was also 16th in the Ironguard race, which includes a distance swim, run and paddle.
Calabrese was the main competitor on the surf ski for her team. A surf ski is a 20-foot, extremely narrow, fast, sit-on-top kayak, with a nose built to cut through the surf. Calabrese practiced using the surf ski over the summer, because the HLA had purchased one and she was one of the few lifeguards on her team who had one at her disposal, as it is used more often in other countries.
Calabrese did participate in a few pool events, including a 4×50 obstacle sprint race, where the swimmers had to dive down and under metal gates located at the bottom of the pool.
Calabrese said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It was one of the weirdest, craziest things I’ve ever done in my life so far. It was amazing to see a sport that doesn’t get much attention and seeing how important it is to people from other countries.”
Calabrese added that she made a lot of friends, from places as far away as New Zealand and Australia.
The high school senior, who is a member of the East Hampton varsity swim team, said she isn’t sure where she’s going to college yet, but hopes to be in California, a place that will allow her to continue pursuing the sport, and that she’d like to study international relations. She said she’d love to make the national team again, perhaps on the adult squad, and participate in the next world championships, which will be held in the Netherlands in 2016.