They call it the "August Shoob." When the mood of New Jersey Shore vacationers — or shoobies — shifts from festive to fretful in the waning days of summer.
"The August people," said Ocean City lifeguard Kat Soanes, 17, "are completely different people than the people at the beginning of the summer."
If they don't let these beachgoers play on the rocks, or use their boogie boards, "they get ticked off," said fellow lifeguard Billy Rodgers, 17, who will be entering his senior year at Ocean City High School.
"At the very end of summer," he added, "they start to get a little anxious."
At the beginning of summer, vacationers are excited for what's to come. But now the kids are going back to school, and before you know it, it's Christmas.
"Summer's ending," Soanes said.
From Memorial Day weekend to just after Labor Day, Ocean City's 186-member beach patrol, specifically the lifeguards, sees it all. The wardens of a 40-block coastline and the protectors of Shoobies, the guards are as synonymous with the Shore as the sand they patrol. Over the course of summer 2018, hundreds of thousands of visitors have flocked to the beach in the town self-dubbed "America's Greatest Family Resort."
And these seaside observers — ages 16 to 60-plus — have collected more beach insights than seashells.
Summer 2018 started out with a cold snap, but was dominated by brutally high temperatures.
"I would say the difference this summer was the extended heat. People getting heat exhaustion and heatstroke, that kind of stuff," said Jonathan Howell, 36, a senior lifeguard and lifelong Ocean City resident.
This year, the number of beachgoers remained about the same, which led to the usual: hundreds of rescues, some CPR incidents, and some cut feet on shells.
"Everyone survived," Howell said.
And while their job can be glorified, it's not Baywatch. Close to 70 percent of the medical issues the lifeguards and medics serviced happened on the sand.
Soanes, who lives in Ocean City seasonally and will be a senior at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken, said one incident stood out: 12 lifeguards rescued a man who fell off the Ninth Street jetty. He ran out across the rocky strip, lost his footing, and vanished into a beckoning wave. Guards jumped off a dredge pipe to head him off. When they caught him, they swam him around the Ninth and 10th Street jetties just to get him out of Dodge.
"That was probably the biggest event of my summer," Soanes said.
Ocean City's downtown beaches, the stretch between Seventh and 11th Streets, are the Shoobie beaches. There are more parking lots closer to the beach, and Gillian's Wonderland Pier sits nearby on the boardwalk.
"So we usually deal with a higher volume of rescues just because of that," said Connor Brady, 23, who works as a financial firm in Center City but has hung onto the seasonal job for his seventh year.
What is the lure of the jetties?
"They think it's land," Howell said. "They think it's safety."
Some tourists see it as dry route to the water, a way to avoid wading into dark waters with unsure feet.
"They think it's an attraction," Howell said. "They think they're coming down here to an amusement park. They think the rocks are there for them to walk on and look for crabs, like they're lily pads in the pool at the water park. And they're not."
Howell has been a lifeguard for 19 years.
"I started in 2000, before cell phones and cameras," he said. "Now, everybody wants to videotape everything. We deal with emergency situations a lot, and that's when people love to break out the phone and get a good angle and videotape someone going through a dire moment in their lives.
"Anything they don't normally see, they want to get on video," he added.
After Labor Day, though, the locals have carte blanche and the lifeguards cut back on the number of beaches they patrol. Their watch ends on Sept. 7.