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Number of lifeguards on Jacksonville Beach increases to patrol large crowds over the Labor Day weekend

Beachgoers lined up the coast at Jacksonville Beach for the holiday. Twelve lifeguards and six officers were on duty Labor Day for patrol and rescue.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — From the shoreline to the pier, beachgoers lined up the coast at Jacksonville Beach to enjoy sunny skies and cool water. The Labor Day crowd came as no surprise to Ocean Rescue lifeguards who brought in more guards than usual to help with rescue and patrol. They also shortened the space between lifeguard stands and stationed more guards in the area of the Jacksonville Beach pier as a preventative measure. 

"One of the biggest water based calls we have is when people trying to swim near the pier," Captain Rob Emahiser said. 

It might be a popular place to fish, but Captain Rob Emahiser says the Jacksonville Beach pier is a dangerous place to swim. So it was all hands on deck with about twelve lifeguards and six officers on duty Labor Day.

"There's a lot of fish hooks from everyone fishing on the pier, constantly a rip current, the pilings themselves are covered with barnacles and there's lots of debris in the water there from the construction," Emahiser said. 

Emahiser says they've received a record number of rescue calls but fortunately the number of actual rescues is at an all time low. 

“Most of them are going to be from Beach Boulevard to about Sixth Avenue North. We'll recognize a situation before it requires intervention. Lifeguards will get there and educate you and say hey, look, this is a rip current area or this pier is a dangerous area to swim," Emahiser added. 

Besides the beach, visitors also took advantage of the local restaurants in the area. A lot of burger bar Graffiti Junktion's customers were beachgoers. Bartender Hannah McLaughlin says the restaurant was busier Saturday and Sunday than it was Monday. But despite that, she says locals and people from out of town stopped by. 

“This is a perfect location, you are smack dab right in between all of the beach bars like Lynch's and the whole strip of bars right there, so people coming out of the bars, they're hungry, they want a burger and they wander in here. We are three blocks from the beach right in the middle of Jacksonville Beach so it's a perfect location honestly," Bartender Hannah McLaughlin said. 

McLaughlin says Graffiti Junktion is known for its burgers and credits its busy atmosphere for its low prices. However, not everyone in Jacksonville Beach wanted to stop by, some would rather catch their own food. Jacksonville resident Matthew Smith spent his Labor Day on Jacksonville Beach Pier and caught a few huge fish. 

"I got a king fish, I got a red as well. My buddy got a nice triple tail, but we only got one king so far," Smith said.

Ocean Rescue lifeguards patrol more than four miles of coastline. Emahiser says they are prepared to handle all types of situations but asks beachgoers who are looking to spend time at the beach to help them out. 

"One thing we deal with frequently is lost children. It's very traumatic to lose your children. That's very scary. We'd like to help prevent that by letting you know that when you're at the beach, it's a different environment. Your kids are playing in a different environment and it's really easy to lose them. So if you are right with them, when they go in the water, you go in the water too. If they're building a sandcastle on the beach, you do the same," Emahiser says. 

Not all beaches have lifeguards. St. Johns County ended its seasonal lifeguard staffing Friday. The only staffed towers are Micklers Landing, Vilano Beach and Anastasia State Park. 

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