SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) — Greg Wilfert remembers being enamored during his first teenage visit to Scarborough Beach State Park.
He never lost that loving feeling. He's working his 50th consecutive season as a lifeguard on the same stretch of beach.
“When I came down and saw the beach and, I guess, what do you call it, your first love? There it is. I found a way to make it work,” Wilfert, who’s 66, told WMTW-TV.
He was 17 at the time of that first beachy visit as a lifeguard in 1972. Over the years since then, Wilfert carved out his summers for lifeguarding even as he worked as a physical education teacher and later ran an antique business with his late wife, who passed in 2019.
These days, he considers himself a retired teacher. But he still hasn't given up his summer job.
"Anything else can be cut. The beach was never going to be on the chopping block. It’s just who I am,” Wilfert said.
At one point, the state tried to divest the park in 1992 to save on rent, and Wilfert ended up leasing the land and running it himself. He retains a business interest in Blackpoint Resources Management, which currently runs the park.
His official job title is manager of the park, but he said he spends 90% of his time lifeguarding.
Through all those years, there have been more than 900 rescues but not a single drowning, he said.
"Greg has a passion for the beach. He's passionate about making sure our patrons are safe,” said David Currier, 61, who's in his 39th season working as a lifeguard at the beach.
Over the years, Currier said, they have watched kids grow up. Some of them are now grandparents.
Wilfert said it's been fun interacting with people and sharing his knowledge of the surf and rip currents. And he has no plans to stop. He's in good shape and swims nearly a mile in the ocean each day.
The old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks doesn't apply in Wilfert's case.
This summer, he began training a Newfoundland puppy named Beacon to serve as an assistant. Wilfert hopes that when Beacon is fully grown, the 130-pound dog can become a part of the rescue team.
“That dog will be able to pull them in and it’s going to be pretty impressive when she does it,” Wilfert said.
Labor Day marks the end of the season. Then Wilfert heads to the mountains to pursue his other passion — skiing. If that’s not enough excitement, he’s also taking flying lessons.
Wilfert and Currier said they plan to be back at the beach next spring.
“Our theme song is ‘Hotel California,’” Wilfert said, quoting the lyrics. “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!”