BELMAR, NJ — With not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the 80s, it didn’t take long for the Belmar beaches to fill with local residents and visitors on the weekend of September 23 and 24.

Despite what appeared to be an ideal late-summer beach day, a closer look told quite a different story. Dangerous and life-threatening rip tides had triggered a swimming ban along Belmar’s 1.3-mile beachfront.

While red “No Swimming” flags flew along the entire oceanfront, there were no lifeguards on official duty to keep beachgoers from entering the rough surf. So many did what they were warned not to do — they went into the ocean waters at their own peril.

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The situation created a sense of urgency that was overwhelming, but not insurmountable for Belmar’s contingent of first responders. During that two-day period, they not only volunteered to patrol the beachfront, but collectively performed 35 water rescues — a team effort that earned them special recognition by the Belmar Council on October 3.

More than 20 first responders, representing the Belmar Water Rescue Team, Belmar First Aid Squad and Belmar Police Department, were honored by Mayor Matthew Doherty and the governing body for their “extraordinary performance” that weekend.

While Gene Scholz of the Belmar Water Rescue Team said he was proud of the entire team for going “above and beyond” and Belmar First Aid’s Fran Hines stressed that the volunteer squad serves the community every day, Police Detective Lt. Michael Campbell commended the actions of the first responders who “put the safety of others before themselves” on that challenging weekend.

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