KEANSBURG, NJ — Sunday, Sept. 17 was just another September day at the beach for Mike Rosenberg. Mid-September. Locals’ time of year. Rosenberg, 35, lives in Shark River Hills now, but he grew up on the Jersey Shore, going to Bradley Beach every summer. In fact, he was a lifeguard there for 18 years, all throughout his teens and twenties.
Rosenberg is now a math teacher at Bolger Middle School in Keansburg. His in-laws have a place in Bradley Beach and he and his family were down visiting for the weekend.
But this past Sunday was no occasion for leisurely swimming. With Hurricane Jose swirling off the coast, the surf was extremely rough, with waves easily up to eight feet.
“I’ve surfed all my life and it was the kind of weather only surfers would go out in, but they’d know they were taking a risk,” he said. The beach — and the ocean — appeared empty.
He got to the beach, at McCabe Avenue, with his two young children and had just sat down in the sand when someone turned to him: “Do you see those swimmers out there? Do you think they need help?”
Sure enough, he looked and could see two swimmers struggling. They were already past the jetty, and being dragged even farther.
Rosenberg’s years of lifeguard training kicked in. “I told someone in my group to call 911. I grabbed a nearby surfboard and ran out there.”
He paddled out between the breakers and reached the swimmers. The couple, a man and woman in their 30s, were shouting and were terrified. They were in deep water. They were also clearly exhausted.
“They looked pretty bad. Another few minutes and I don’t think they would have made it,” he said. “When I first got to them, I shouted at them, ‘What are you doing out here?!””
They were foreigners, he said. They said they wanted to go for a swim.
Rosenberg told them to grab onto his feet. He knew he couldn’t risk taking them back ashore; the waves were too rough. They held on and he paddled out beyond the surf, into calm water. There, they all waited together until a U.S. Coast Guard boat came and picked them up. The man and woman were shaken up, but OK. They were taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center for evaluation.
It’s an incredible story, but it’s also one that should be expected by now along the Jersey Shore. At least 30 people have died in summer 2017 either swimming off the Jersey Shore or in pools and lakes. The deaths have stretched from Sandy Hook down to Belmar and Atlantic City. Patch has been chronicling the drownings all summer; here is our most recent tally as of Sept. 9: 30 Die In New Jersey Water Deaths Since May As Trend Continues
“They definitely could have died,” said Rosenberg. “Surfers and off-duty lifeguards rescue people all the time, and half the time you never hear about it.”
There was one highlight: “When I got back to the beach, my four-year-old daughter asked if I was Batman. That was pretty cool,” he laughed.
Patch reported on the rescue Sunday when it happened: 2 Swimmers Rescued From Ocean In Monmouth County: Authorities
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Originally published September 19, 2017.