OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Without the late Capt. George Schoepf, the Ocean City Beach Patrol would almost certainly not be what it is today: an organization with more than 130 members who patrol about 10 miles of beaches.
The annual Capt. Schoepf Relay is one way the patrol remembers that.
When Schoepf started working in town in 1950, Ocean City was only incorporated to 15th Street. He helped push the resort to the next level in increments, first to 24th Street, then 41st Street and finally all the way north to the Delaware state line, according to current Capt. Butch Arbin, who said Schoepf was largely responsible for “breaking in” the new sections of the beach and ensuring they were appropriately staffed for safety.
Schoepf continued his service to the beach patrol for more than 40 years, and served as captain from 1987 until his death from colon cancer in June 1997.
In 1998, the patrol started the relay, in which all the resort’s lifeguards — along with some former guards and Schoepf family members — embark on a 21-mile circular route that begins and ends at Seventh Street, the post Schoepf had manned for most of his career.
“That’s always just been kind of considered his place,” Arbin said.
On Sunday, the 13th installment of the relay will start with a beach run. Instead of a baton, the guards will pass a classic steel rescue buoy — the kind Schoepf used before “the ones you see on ‘Baywatch’ were invented,” Arbin said.
When the buoy reaches the north end of the resort’s beaches, the guards will relay the buoy all the way back down to Seventh Street, this time by swimming.
“The relay is a way of reminding the guards of where we come from, which is important because I think a lot of organizations forget their roots,” Arbin said. “Very few of the younger guards knew Schoepf. So, we just want them to know they’re contributing to an organization that’s worth belonging to and has a lot of history.”
Four patrol members will use four-wheelers to stay ahead of the relay and cover the stands as the other members make their way up and down the beach, in a sort of safety relay of their own.
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)