From Filling Cavities To Watching Swimmers
A summer tradition along the Jersey Shore is lifeguards sitting on an elevated stand watching over adults and children swimming in the ocean. Most lifeguards are young and lifeguarding is the only job they have in the summer. Dr. Bill Ditchkus is not like most lifeguards as he is entering his 51st summer as a lifeguard in Seaside Heights while also maintaining a career as a dentist.
The combination of dentistry and lifeguarding does not seem to go together because it appears that the dental work in an office would get in the way of being a guard on the beach. Dr. Ditchkus does not see the problem of maintaining a duel career in the summer and even explained what would happen if an emergency happened in his office. “I’ll handle it after work or early in the morning before I come here,” he said. “My girls are still there, so they take any messages for me.”
An Island Heights native who graduated from Central Regional High School Dr. Ditchkus began his lifeguard career in 1965. Like all guards he started out sitting on a stand watching over the water but since 1990 has worked mainly in the headquarters of the Seaside Heights Beach Patrol. However during lunch breaks and at other times he can be seen wearing his white top and manning a lifeguard stand just like those young enough to be his grandchildren. Bill is a lieutenant in the SHBP and works under Lifeguard Chief Jay Boyd and Captain Rob Connor. Now a resident of Toms River he owns and operates West Dover Family Dentistry on Route 37 West and is no stranger to working multiple jobs. In the fall he is busy on the weekends as a football official and has worked high school and college games for decades.
Being a lifeguard is not an easy summer job and being a lifeguard in Seaside Heights is especially difficult. The mile-long beach is a popular destination for tourists and especially on weekends it gets packed with those looking to beat the heat. The large number of people that visit the beach puts a lot of responsibility on the lifeguards to make sure everybody is safe. They have to be able to tell which way the wind is blowing, the movement of the tides and where the rip currents are. While rescuing swimmers in part of the job the main focus is not letting them get into trouble in the first place…prevention is the priority.
While lifeguarding does not seem like a summer job that enhances your life skills, Dr. Ditchkus would disagree. He believes that the skills you learn as a lifeguard can be used later in life. “There’s a lot of responsibility for these kids,” he said. “I think that’s a big part of it. If you can work here, you can work anywhere in the world and you can carry it over to the next level.”
Dr. Ditchkus has no plans of giving up his dual careers. He will continue spending his summers on the beach. When asked if he would be working until his 60th summer, Dr. Ditchkus responded that he is not sure if he would work that long. “I’m shooting for tomorrow,” he said. “The chief who runs the beach, Jay Boyd, and our captain Rob Connor, they’ve been very kind to me, letting me come back.” Sounds like the dentist is being a bit humble because having an experienced lifeguard like him on the beach is an asset the Seaside Heights Beach Patrol can be proud of.
Kevin Williams also contributed to this story