Once rare, female lifeguards do the same job as their male counterparts, and meet the same standards

By Lynn R. Parks | Photograph by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
From the June 2019 issue

june-feature-female-lifeguards

In June 1979, the Sunday News Journal in Wilmington ran an article on its front page announcing a milestone for the Rehoboth Beach Patrol. Teresa Olewnik — who stood 5 feet 9 inches, according to the paper — was the first female to “break into the ranks of the traditionally all-male clique of good-looking jocks” in the resort town, reporter Carol Shochet wrote.

Olewnik, who lived in Wilmington, for two years had worked as a lifeguard at Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes. Jeff Cannon, then the captain at the RBP, had seen her compete at the Lifeguard Olympics, an annual event hosted by the Rehoboth squad, and was impressed by her performance.

“I had wanted to have women on the patrol before, but we get very few applications from women, and the ones we do get have zero qualifications,” Cannon told the paper. “So I contacted her and asked her if she wanted to work for us.”

In the four decades since Olewnik accepted that offer and moved south to a Rehoboth lifeguard stand, things have changed quite a bit. Todd Fritchman, captain of the Dewey Beach Patrol, says that this year more than half of the 35 applicants to join the 2019 roster are women.

 

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