The last of the lifeguards who scanned the waves for telltale fins at Cape Cod beaches this summer have climbed down from their stands, bringing to an end a season that included more than 100 shark-related beach closures.
While most Cape lifeguards stopped working after Labor Day, Wellfleet town officials decided for the first time to keep lifeguards on at Newcomb Hollow Beach until the end of September. In September 2018, a 26-year-old Revere man was killed in a shark attack at the beach, the first shark fatality in the state in more than 80 years.
“This year has been an especially stressful summer,” Suzy Blake, co-head lifeguard at Newcomb Hollow Beach, said Monday in a telephone interview. She said the lifeguards were feeling a mix of emotions, simultaneously melancholy that the summer was over and relieved that nothing bad had happened on their watch.
“Because of the actual shark incident we had last summer, we were worried that might happen again,” she said.
And shark season isn’t over yet, she warned. The lifeguards have left the beaches equipped with emergency phones as well as Stop the Bleed kits, Blake said.
“Use general caution, and know we’re still in peak shark activity through October,” she advised potential beachgoers.
Blake said the lifeguards were more prepared this summer for an attack and more vigilant. They placed lifeguard stands up on the dunes to get better vantage points, and a shark-detecting buoy was placed in the water.
Blake said the buoy alerted the lifeguards to sharks almost every day, and it was not uncommon for her and other lifeguards to see a shark in the water and quickly call everyone back to shore.
“It gets the adrenaline rushing a little, but because we’re trained responders it just becomes part of our routine,” she said.
Blake, 40, said most of the lifeguards have been going to these beaches since they were children, and they have noticed that there are more seals and sharks in the water than in years past.
Although these aren’t scientific observations, Blake noted, “We are the ones staring at the water all day.”
Blake said people seemed more hesitant to go in the water this summer, but they certainly didn’t stop coming to the beach completely. The parking lot was filled most weekends through September.
Since the beginning of July, there were at least 111 beach closures due to shark sightings on the Cape, the Islands, and Plymouth. That included 88 closures that occurred after Aug. 1, according to a list compiled by the Globe.
The beaches that were closed most often were Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro with 21 closures, Nauset Beach in Orleans with 19 closures, and Newcomb Hollow Beach with 18 closures.
In September, after vacations ended and most lifeguards were no longer on duty, beaches were closed due to shark sightings at least eight times.