With the passing of summer into fall on Tuesday, Sept. 22, it only seems right that we wrap up our Summer 2020 Lifeguard Series this week as we feature local Bethany Beach resident and 2019 Indian River High School graduate Maximus “Max” Kohr.
For Kohr, joining the Bethany Beach Patrol just three years ago was a huge decision that he felt had a significant place in his life.
“I considered joining the Bethany Beach Patrol to be a turning point in my life, and it began in the spring of 2017,” Kohr recalled. “I had just finished a season of swim at Indian River, where I had rediscovered swimming after being absent for 10 years.
“Honestly, the last thing on my mind was becoming a lifeguard. I felt very young at the time, I was only 16. Coincidentally, it was the minimum age to join the Bethany Beach Patrol. My brother, Jonathan, and stepfather, Bodji, had always encouraged me to join the Bethany Beach Patrol because of their long history with the patrol and unforgettable experiences.”
There were some outside factors that had made the decision to join the Bethany Beach Patrol a tough choice at first, but ultimately, Kohr said, knew it was where he belonged.
“To be completely honest, I was hesitant to join the Bethany Beach Patrol,” he continued. “Every one of my friends seemed to be avoiding Bethany Beach Patrol, and going elsewhere for ‘better pay’ or some other excuse, but I knew something about Bethany Beach Patrol only wanting a select few to wear the birdies.
“Keeping in mind the advice I had been given, I thought long and hard about my decision, because I knew what the commitment Bethany Beach Patrol held. I thought about how I wanted to spend my summer, but something told me that Bethany Beach Patrol could offer more than just a paycheck.”
And more than “just a paycheck” it has been for Kohr.
“Looking at where the guards have started — and where they are today, I can tell Bethany Beach Patrol instills self-improvement and values maturity in its guards,” Kohr said.
“I had always struggled with commitment, especially in new experiences. There came a point in my personal and family life where I thought I would never be able to overcome the challenge I had been dealing with. I felt hopeless to change it. With no guidance from authority figures, I could never make the right changes to fix it. The lack of guidance further allowed me to have zero accountability for my actions,” he admitted.
“However, after one summer of putting others before myself and tackling the challenge that is guarding Bethany Beach, I knew I was in a completely different environment that pushed to be more accountable.
“I knew from watching my brother’s experience that Bethany Beach Patrol had exceptionally high standards, and expected the very best from their guards. Jonathan had grown so much and sought help to grow within the patrol, and he can confidently say he has earned himself a space on the ‘Lifeguard of the Year’ board.
“Bethany Beach Patrol has consistently shown from its past guards that they come out of this job experience not just the best lifeguards but dedicated, accountable, and committed individuals. The brotherhood and authority figures of Bethany Beach Patrol have put me in a spot where I know I can take on anything, and I know I made the right decision four years ago.”
After graduating from high school, Kohr went west out to Los Angeles, Calif., where he started his college education at Santa Monica College. Due to the COVID global pandemic, he has been unable to return to school for this year, but he is taking his classes remotely.
During his freshman year, Kohr was a part of the Santa Monica college newspaper called The Corsair.
“My first story was featured on the cover of the Santa Monica Daily Press,” Kohr said. “I worked on a digital series called ‘The Salon.’”
Unlike many, Kohr’s family is spread out worldwide, with his grandparents living in Panama City, Panama. He is the “baby” of the family, with two older sisters and his older brother. Oldest sister Annalysa resides in Rincon, Puerto Rico, and is the creator of Oakum Collection. Gabrielle just graduated from Laguna Beach College of Art & Design out in Laguna Beach, Calif.
Brother Jonathan, to whom Kohr attributes his inspiration for becoming a lifeguard, is currently a full-time lifeguard in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Jonathan was a four-year member of the Bethany Beach Patrol, and was named its Lifeguard of the Year back in 2018.
Kohr’s mother, Lili Oller, owns and operates Water Lili in Bethany Beach and Ocean View with her partner, Bodji, who is Kohr’s step-father.
While at Indian River, Kohr was a member of the Indians swim team. As a youth, Kohr swam for the Sea Colony Sharks. In 2019, Kohr was a member of the 200-yard freestyle relay team that placed third in state competition.
And as with our other featured lifeguards during this summer-long series, Kohr has seen his fair share of rescues. One day, in particular, stood out, because it was a day where the entire patrol made 75 rescues.
“The waves were around 4 feet tall, with some sets getting close to around 5 to 6 feet tall,” Kohr recalled. “I had just returned to my stand after a lunch break when I saw a child in distress attempting to swim to shore. With every stroke he takes towards shore, he is moving 5 feet closer to the waves, because he was swimming in a rip current.
“I must have swam 50 yards for the kid. When I finally made it out to him, he couldn’t comprehend the severity of the situation he was in, because he was around 4 to 6 years old. After lining up the right moment to get him to shore, we had some difficulties getting there, because he was so scared of the face of the waves that were approaching us. But we made it.
“The part when I saw the child — there was no hesitation, no fear, just an immediate reaction to charge huge surf head-on. After making that rescue, the mother and I talked about everything, and I gave her a rundown of everything. After that day, whenever the mother came to the beach with her family, she would make sure to find where I was sitting, and set up near me and say hello.
“What stuck with me after that day is that she doesn’t know who I am. She only asked for my name. But I know she trusts me.”
Like many of the other locals and vacationers who visit the Bethany Beach shores throughout the summer season, the trust and knowledge that some of the best lifeguards on the East Coast watch over them as they relax and enjoy their time is comforting.
We hope you have enjoyed the 2020 Summer Lifeguard Series. If you want to read about any of our other featured lifeguards from throughout the summer, check out our website at www.coastalpoint.com for all the stories.