It can be grueling to fight the rips and other elements on a daily basis as a lifeguard. However, no one may be more equipped athletically and physically to handle that grind than Lexi Santer, who is our final Summer Lifeguard Series feature for the summer of 2021.
Santer is as athletic as they come and proved that point several times over during the summer-long lifeguard competitions — regionally, as well on the national stage in South Padre Beach, Texas, last month. Her overall efforts earned her the third most points in the Women’s Open Division, which is very impressive considering the number of people who participate at nationals, from all over the country.
The list of her finishes is extensive and extremely impressive over the dozen events in which she was entered. In a group with Lainey Shockro, Meredith Lockwood and Sophia Gulotti, Santer would finish second in the 4x100 Run Relay. She also took second in the rescue race with Gulotti, Grace Hansen and Cindy Fajardo.
But wait, there’s more! She was third in the board rescue with Hansen, while taking third overall in the American Ironwoman individually. She was also fourth in board relay (with Hansen and Fajardo), surf boat (with Fajardo), International Ironwoman, taplin (with Fajardo, Hansen and Gulotti) and in the surf race, by herself.
She also was sixth in the board race, and seventh in the run-swim-run individual event. Her lowest finish was 13th in the surf ski competition.
Santer’s lifeguard life started eight summers ago, on the beaches in Ocean City, N.J., when she was 16 years old. She spent five years patrolling the shores and sitting on the stands in OCNJ before her college research project for her graduate degree would lead her to Delaware. The 2019 graduate from Duquense University in Pittsburgh, Pa., was looking for a place to continue guarding, while doing her graduate research project.
“Once I found out where my research project was going to be, I went into Aquacare in Millville, and I reached out to a couple of my friends who I knew were in the Sussex and Ocean City (Md.) lifeguard patrols,” Santer recalled. “I started asking around if any of their patrols would be willing to pick up a guard in the summer, while I was doing my research project.
“I reached out to someone at Rehoboth. I reached out to someone in Ocean City. There may have been another one, but the guard in Ocean City had actually moved to Sea Colony’s patrol. He was like, ‘Well, you could do Ocean City, or you could do Sea Colony.’ [Sea Colony] were the first to get back to me.”
Santer linked up with Sea Colony three years ago, and she has loved every minute of it. The first two summers, she stayed locally with some other lifeguards while working as a full-time lifeguard. This year, however, she was more involved in her career as an occupational therapist up in Wilmington at Christiana Care, and was only down when she was scheduled for a shift on the lifeguard stand.
“The past two summers, I was working full-time as a guard, but as I am trying to transition my career more. I am lifeguarding less and doing my occupational therapy more often,” she said.
Her time has also been occupied with planning her upcoming wedding to fiancé Dan Casey, which is set to take place next weekend in Rehoboth. The two met while guarding in OCNJ. They both competed in Texas together as well during the national lifeguard competition last month.
So, how much longer does Santer want to keep lifeguarding?
“It depends,” she said. “Depending on what type of OT job I end up with. Right now, I’m a per diem therapist, which is part-time, so it does allow me to lifeguard in the summer. I definitely want to keep it involved in my life. So either competing at like the regional and national championships, which you can do as an alumni, or if I can keep lifeguarding if my schedule allows for that, I’d like to do that.
She clearly loves being a lifeguard.
“I probably love it too much,” she commented with a laugh.
And being a part of the Sea Colony Beach Patrol certainly keeps her coming back for more each year.
“I really like the culture that we have going [at Sea Colony],” she continued. “It’s a small group, and everyone that we have there really wants to do a good job. They are all very motivated. You don’t find that much in bigger patrols. Everyone at Sea Colony really wants to do a good job, and wants to stay fit and active, and do the best job they can.
“We have a couple more benefits being a smaller group on a private beach,” she noted. “We have access to the pool for training at Sea Colony, which is really nice. Again, it’s a lot smaller of a patrol, so I think that our entire hierarchy, our structure — our captain sits on the beach with us. It keeps him very grounded, I think, and keeps him in tune with what the guards are dealing with every day. So that’s really nice.
“The lieutenants and captain are very nice and understanding. They are right there with you doing the workouts and the rescues. It makes for a lot closer of a group. Also, we answer to our captain, and not the mayor. So the decisions that are made are in our best interest.”
Santer has been fortunate to not have any major medical rescues over the course of her eight years, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been busy.
“I haven’t had any major medicals or spinals, luckily,” she said. “In my eight years, I haven’t had to experience that. I have had quite a few water rescues and minor medicals. A lot of them were rip current-related, especially last summer — it was very busy.”
Thank you to all of the lifeguards whose stories we’ve had the opportunity to share over the course of this summer. We look forward to doing this again next season. Be safe out there!