Lifeguard Profile > Crest guard looks to defend Around the Island Row title

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Brendan Cunningham guards the Toledo Avenue beach in Wildwood Crest with partner and rowing mate Terry McGovern. Brendan Cunningham guards the Toledo Avenue beach in Wildwood Crest with partner and rowing mate Terry McGovern.

Brendan Cunningham joined a rather exclusive list last summer.

In just his second summer competing for the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, Cunningham and teammate Terry McGovern shocked the field last summer by winning the Around the Island Row, perhaps the most demanding race on the lifeguard competition circuit each year.

Only the very best crews have notched a win in the race – a 19-mile row around the island of the Wildwoods.

“At first I didn’t really know the extent of what I did,” Cunningham admitted. “But then it kind of connected with me when all kinds of people kept congratulating me on winning it.”

Cunningham, 24, is a third-year lifeguard in Wildwood Crest after serving one summer in Avalon. His skills in the boat were developed during his school days at Monsignor Bonner High School and Temple University, where Cunningham was a rower for the varsity teams. In addition to his job as a lifeguard in the summer, Cunningham is a graduate student at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., where he is also the freshmen crew coach. He is studying toward a master’s degree in English after earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Temple’s Fox School of Business in May 2010.

“I want to keep coaching and couple it with something,” Cunningham said. “I figured with an English degree, that might allow me to teach and coach down the road.”

Cunningham was led into both crew and lifeguarding partly by his older brothers, Dan and Luke, who lifeguarded and rowed for the Sea Isle City and Avalon beach patrols in the mid-1990s. Luke was also a women’s crew coach for one year at UCLA.

Cunningham regularly competes in lifeguard competitions with McGovern. This week, they will be rowing at the Margate Memorials before competing in the South Jersey Championships in Ocean City next week. And, of course, there is the Around the Island Row title they will be defending on Aug. 15.

Cunningham regularly sits at the Toledo Avenue beach in the Crest. His partner for the first two summers was John “Johnny Bo” Fair. This summer, though, he is paired with McGovern.

“Brendan and Terry do a great job on that beach,” Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol Chief Bud Johnson said.

“They’re both mature guys, very conscientious. One’s a schoolteacher and the other’s a graduate student. They’ve both become good role models to the other lifeguards. They take the job very seriously. They’re two guys our community should be proud of.”

Cunningham enjoys the family atmosphere of the Toledo Avenue beach.

“There’s a lot of families on that beach,” Cunningham said, “and it’s neat to see the same people on vacation year after year and to see the same locals all the time. Everyone’s really nice.”

Cunningham sees his job as much more than sitting on a lifeguard stand and rowing in beach patrol competitions.

“I like the friends you get to meet, the camaraderie, the morning workouts and the public safety aspect,” Cunningham said. “And this job has really taught me to stay calm under pressure, relax and do your best to help people.”

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