JONES BEACH, N.Y. (PIX11) — With a mostly sunny, warm weekend in store, thousands of people are expected to flock to local beaches, as they did on Friday. As always, sun, surf and sand will be on their minds, but now, one other alliterated word is top of mind. Beachgoer Carlos Ortiz vocalized it.
“Sharks,” he said. “There are too many sharks, unfortunately.”
Milena Chavez, who was sunning herself on the sand, said that the presence of the predatory fish was the reason she was high and dry.
“I’m not getting in the water,” she said, “‘Because I’m scared.”
It’s a mindset shared by quite a few people attracted to the beach after an unusually high spike in shark encounters off the Long Island coast recently. Still, beachgoers like Chavez, who are afraid to go into the surf, were a small minority of people who PIX11 News encountered at the beach on Friday.
Most shared the same feelings as Haisha Quezada, who was taking a break between splash sessions in the surf.
“I’m not scared of animals in the water,” she said, noting that a wide variety of ocean life is in Long Island coastal waters. “I’m not really scared of anything.”
Since the beginning of July, four people have been bitten by sharks, at three different Long Island coastal locations: Ocean Beach, Smith Point Beach and Seaview Beach.
Also, at least three more locations, shark sightings, or possible sightings, have closed beaches temporarily: Davis Park, Tobay Beach and Robert Moses State Park Beach.
That is what’s supposed to happen, said Kevin Connelly, the assistant regional director of New York State Parks. Beach closures, and the possibility of them, he said, mean that lifeguards are carrying out their extensive training, from their stations that intentionally have vantage points meant to detect what other people at the beach can’t.
“With them being at that height,” Connelly said, referring to the lifeguard chairs, which can be twice the height of most beachgoers, or more, “they can actually see into the water and see those moving objects.”
Being near one of the lifeguard stations was a prerequisite for Bud Sadiq to come to the beach with his family on Friday.
“That’s the first thing I asked for when I got here. ‘Where’s the lifeguard tower?'” he said, “So we could be close next to the lifeguards.”
They were close. Right in front of one, actually. From there, he and the four children he’d brought with him, walked right into the surf without hesitation.
The person whose duties include overseeing the lifeguards said that while they are using their eyes and ears to look out for potential hazards beneath the surface of the ocean, they also have a wide variety of other tools.
“We have folks in boats,” said Connelly. “We have people on paddle boards, we have drones in use, we even have jet skis. We have multiple tools to keep us safe.”