To some, the parallels between being a teacher and being a lifeguard may not be immediately apparent.
But for J. Mason Tomlin School physical education teacher and newest Beach Haven Beach Patrol Chief Meghan Marro, her two passions couldn’t be more complementary.
“I want to help people, whether that means saving lives or helping shape someone’s future or maybe just changing someone’s day for the better,” she said.
Marro, who not only spent most of her summers living at her parents’ house in Long Beach Island but also has 10 years’ experience protecting its beachgoers as a lifeguard, isn’t just the next chief of beach patrol for Beach Haven: She’s the first woman to fill the role.
And it’s an honor Marro takes seriously.
“The way that I used to look up to the lifeguards, that’s how people look at me,” she marveled. “I’m hoping that other women and little girls and LITs (lifeguards in training) and girls on patrol know that it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman: As long as you’re qualified for the position, that’s all that matters.”
As patrol chief, Marro runs the organization. That means she handles day-to-day functions, from making the schedule to ensuring everything’s running smoothly. She spent a few years as assistant chief, a role that helped her get an up-close look and hands-on understanding of what it takes to make the beach patrol the best it can be.
It is, according to Marro, all about putting safety first and making sure everyone from residents to day trippers know that Beach Haven lifeguards are there for everyone’s protection.
“The most important thing is always going to be safety: safety on the beach, safety being the top priority of everyone on beach patrol,” she explained. “Part of that is making sure everyone is approachable.”
Marro and her twin brother Logan first became lifeguards during their college summers in the early ‘10s, and their sister Courtney also joined them. For Marro, it was the perfect way to satisfy her love of swimming, spend more time with her family in a place she adores and fulfill a longtime goal.
“My brother and I didn’t think to go anywhere else besides Beach Haven: We always said that when we were in college, we’d be lifeguards,” she explained.
With LBI and Beach Haven being such significant parts of her life, Marro believes knowing the area and its population well is an asset she brings to the patrol.
“I grew up in Beach Haven, I started my career in Beach Haven, I love walking down the street knowing a ton of people in Beach Haven,” she noted. “I started lifeguarding on a local beach so I knew everyone on there. It’s great, because some of the little kids I used to watch on that beach are now on beach patrol themselves.”
Once she began her educational career, Marro found lifeguarding fit into her life in a whole new way.
“It became the perfect hybrid career so I could teach during the school year and then for my summers, I would have the opportunity to continue lifeguarding,” Marro said. “I get to do two things that I really love to do.”
But her lifeguard duties actually extend beyond the summer season, which Marro said comes as a surprise to most people who don’t see the behind-the-scenes work that the patrol does year round, like interviews and safety processes.
“It actually never stops,” she said with a laugh. “But when school ends, I will be closing one door and just stepping right into the other.”
Addressing all the things that the beach patrol needs to do, especially when Marro and other lifeguards are across the state for most of the year, requires a lot of virtual meetings. So many, in fact, that it’s how Marro learned how to navigate a virtual classroom.
“With COVID, for beach patrol, instead of coming in in the morning for things like a group meeting, doing a workout, getting our beach assignments, discussing what happened yesterday, water conditions today, we had to join 20 people together instead with an online platform,” she explained. “It was super new for me in the summer, but it prepared me for the school year because all the lifeguards still in college showed me how to use things like Google Classroom.”
And if there’s anything her dual careers taught Marro, it’s that teamwork among colleagues who share a close bond is the best way to get things done.
“Our patrol is so family oriented,” she said: “We treat each other like family and we have multiple family members on our patrol, just like I do. We’re a giant family who always come through for each other and care about the people of Beach Haven.”