by Michelle Michalak August 19, 2016

NYC Lifeguard Steven Brennan is spreading the Slyde Stoke on the East Coast in an epic fashion.

Dive into his personal Slyde Lifestyle below:

Where are you from?

I was born in Staten Island, New York, which is actually one of the five boroughs in New York City.  After I was born, my parents brought me to a town called Howard Beach which is located in the southwestern portion of the New York City area of Queens.  This is where I have spent my entire life growing up and attending school.

How would you describe the beach & break at Rockaway Beach Queens?   

Rockaway beach is no doubt my favorite place to be in the summer time.  Since most of the Superstorm Sandy rebuild/recovery in Rockaway is almost complete, it is now full of places to surf shops, as well as places to get some great food and drinks.  It is easily New York City’s nicest and most popular beach.

Overview of Rockaway Beach:
This is due to the fact that the parks/recreations department does a really good job of keeping the beach clean and free of debris, this in turn makes the beach very welcoming to patrons.  Each section of the beach has its own unique way of being run.  For example,  there are lifeguard stations or shacks which we as lifeguards normally refer to them as shacks.

These shacks are set up and spread out all across the Rockaway peninsula.  Some actually have concessions right next to them where you can buy food and drinks.  Each shack covers a certain amount of streets and chairs.  By far, downtown is the most crowded area due to the fact that the A train makes stops all along those streets. There are shacks placed on 17th, 32nd, 59th, 73rd, 86th, 97th, 106th, 117th, 135th and 149th Street

I currently work full time at the 149th Street shack, which is mainly consisted of locals.  The 86th Street and 117th Street shacks are defiantly the most hectic when comes to getting huge crowds on the weekends. Over all, the beach its self is pretty awesome and there is never a dull moment. 

Rockaway Beach Break:
Rockaway beach has a fairly wide range of surf on different sections of the beach.  This is due to the fact that there are sandbars and sudden drop offs.  The sandbars and sudden drop offs ultimately have a huge effect on how the waves come in and break.  Occasionally, we will have sets of waves that break twice, the first wave will break once far out before it hits the sand bar and again once it gets past it. 

When the waves are breaking in that way it makes it a little tricky to handboard because timing the waves are key or other wise they’ll end up going past you.  Local surfers have also told me the waves are affected by a continental shelf that runs across the Rockaway peninsula.  Throughout the months of June and July the waves usually hover around 2-3 feet.  Having waves that size are perfect for learning how to handboard.  

There are also those occasional days when we have bigger waves after a storm roles past, which makes for some pretty awesome sessions.  But the best time of the summer to come to Rockaway beach and surf is in mid to late August

This is when hurricanes start coming up the east coast bringing bringing really nice swells. What makes Rockaway beach really unique is that its  the largest urban beach in the United States and it is the city’s only legal surfing beach. 

Who or What inspired you to be an ocean lifeguard?

There was one person who inspired me to become an ocean lifeguard.  One day I was doing community service at my old elementary school by helping out my old technology teacher fix computers and take inventory of all the computers in the building.  That particular day my brothers old kindergarten teacher Becky Brouder was having some issues with the computer her kids use.

I went down to her class room and checked out the computer and fixed the issue in no time. Once I was done with the computer we talked for about 10 minutes to catch up a little.  During the conversation I mentioned how I was part of my High School swim team at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, New York as well as my club team the Cross Island Barracudas. She was really impressed that I swam for two teams and asked me if I had anything planned for the upcoming summer. At this time we saw each other was around November of 2013 and I was only 16, and I told her no, I didn’t. 

Then she went on to tell me about how since she has the entire summer off from school she’s works at Rockaway Beach as a  NYC Lifeguard. To me that sounded like the coolest summer job in the world.  So she went onto tell me how I had to take a 15 week class one day a week from January until April, which the city pays you to take. And then there's the rigorous certification test. Aspiring lifeguards must be able to swim 50 yards in 35 seconds while keeping a proper freestyle stoke, which wasn’t hard for me at all. You also must have 2-0/30 vision in one eye and 2-0/40 in the other without corrective lenses,  and Becky went on to tell me that's all before the class and actual exam!

So toward the end of the conversation she gave me the phone number so that I can call the lifeguard school to get my self enrolled.  If it wasn’t for that computer having issues I don’t think I would have ever become a NYC Lifeguard. Which I can say without hesitation is the best summer job any teen or adult could ask for. I have made some amazing friends as well as memories, and it’s all thanks to Becky Brouder. 

What's the craziest experience you've had as a lifeguard?

The craziest experience I've had as a lifeguard had to be during the summer of June 2015. This was my second year of Lifeguarding and it was going great. One day I was sitting on the 136th street chair with my friends Blaze and Justin, it was a pretty typical Saturday for us and the beach was packed. It had to be around 1:30 in the after noon when the case happened.

I was sitting on the chair and noticed that a guy was wearing a life jacket when he was walking towards the water.  This immediately raised a red flag because we assumed he could not swim very well, which he couldn’t.  As the guy started to enter the water we blew our whistles at him to get his attention and to try and keep him from going in the water.  On this particular day the water was really rough and there was a really strong current going uptown, but he didn’t listen to our whistling.  For whatever reason he tried to swim really far out towards the ocean.  As he went further out he started to struggle more and more, and at one point the lifejacket got loose and it went over his head. 

This caused his head to go under making difficult for him to try and get his head back up.  At that point we already blew the case whistle and made our way into the water.  But this is where it gets interesting.  Once we get out to him and he is secured onto the buoy this boat out of no where starts coming towards us.  All of immediately start kicking faster so that we can get back to the shore before the boat could injure us.  Apparently the guy who we were rescuing was actually trying swim out far enough so that he can go onto his friends boat.

So as the boat came closer it became very unstable and was about 15 feet away from us.  The rough waves were making the boat rock back and forth and almost causing it to tip over onto us. We were all having an “oh shit” moment because we thought we were going to get crushed. 

When the captain of the boat realized he was getting closer to shore he turned on the engines and tried to go back out.  In doing so since we were so close to the boat we started to get sucked into the engines.  At that point we were all kicking as fast as we could while holding onto the buoys. 

Once we get out of the current and make it back toward the shore line we checked and made sure everyone was okay, and luckily enough no one got hurt.  In the end this had to be one of the craziest cases I have ever been involved in as a lifeguard, and even though we all almost got crushed my a boat the adrenaline rush was awesome. 

The most rewarding experience?

The most rewarding experience that I have ever had happened towards the end of last summer.  We were two weeks away from finishing off the lifeguard season and this little girl, which was 7 years old at the time had a sudden seizure while playing in the water. It happened in front of the next chair from me and I saw the entire thing happen.  They blew a case whistle and ran down to the water. 

When they got down to the shore line they sized up the seen and made sure that there was nothing the little girl could hurt herself on as the seizure was running its course.  After they did that they blew the sign for the oxygen tank, thats when I ran the tank down to them so they can have it on stand by and ready to be used once the seizure had ended.

When it ended they started giving her oxygen and that’s when I called for backboard so we could get her more stabilized.  While I was doing that another lifeguard called for an ambulance.  While all this was going on we were all very nervous and scared because she was unconscious. Once the ambulance came they picked her up and started carrying her over to the street.

On the way there the 7 year old girl regained consciousness and started to cry.  This was a huge relief because she knew what was going on and that she was going to be okay.  As we were collecting information from the mother we discovered this was her first one and it was a very scary experience for the family. 

But for me knowing that she was going to be okay was one of the biggest relief for me at the point.  It was so rewarding to all of us because we knew that we performed our job to the best of our abilities.  

How did you get into bodysurfing & handboarding?

I’ve been bodysurfing for as long as I can remember, but it was not until most recently when I got into handboarding. I first found out about handboards by seeing Slyde pitch their company on Shark Tank.  Before then I had no clue what a hardboard was or even knew that they existed.

As me and my family watched Steve and Angela do their pitch to the sharks I thought it was one of the best things I have ever seen on the show.  The boards were so unique and different that I had to get one to see what it was like.  After the show finished I spent about a good two days reading up on Slyde and what they were all about. 

I loved what I saw about their whole company and the mission they were on. So I then decided to make my first hardboard purchase with Slyde.  The two boards I bought at the time were the hipsterand the black carbon wedge.  Once the boards were delivered and I got a closer look at them I knew I made the right choice of going with Slyde.

As the weeks went on I started to email Steve and Angela telling them how much I loved the boards and how I wanted to become an Ambassador for Slyde
Since I’m at the beach 6 days a week working as a lifeguard it was a no brainer for me to apply for the ambassador program.  After a month or so of spreading the stoke all along Rockaway and the east coast I was made one of the very few ambassadors that live on the east coast

It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.  Becoming part of such an amazing community felt so great.  Hearing other Slyders stories and experiences is simply awesome. There no other way you could put it, and in a way we kind of encourage each other to do more sick stunts and sessions. There’s no other handboard community out there that can match what we do because we are all so passionate and have different styles. 

As a Slyde ambassador you want people to experience the same rush and adrenaline that you did when you first tired a board.  Seeing peoples faces after their first time using one is priceless, it never fails to put a huge smiles on peoples face.  All my co-workers have tried the board and they can't get enough of it.  After I became an ambassador I got the nick name Slyde, which was pretty cool because that meant more and more people were finding out.  The mission to spread the stoke never ends Spread the stoke all day, party all night.   

Where's your ultimate Slyde Destination? Why?

Since I am fairly new to Slyde and handboards in general I wouldn’t say I really have a destination yet.  The NYC and Long Island areas have very different waves and surf due to the way different beaches are positioned in different ways facing the Atlantic ocean.  But, if I could pick one Slyde Destination to go to on a regular basis it would probably be Jones Beach State Park

The only reason I would choose Jones beach over Rockaway would because the waves a more consistent week after week with the sizes.  Compared to Rockaway Beach where we could have 3-4 food waves one day and the next could be completely flat.  That’s probably the only reason I would choose Jones beach over Rockaway beach as my SLYDE destination

What 3 celebrities would you most like to be on a party wave with?

This was a tricky one… If I had to pick three 3 celebrities to be on a party wave with the first would probably be Michael Phelps.  It would be pretty cool to Slyde with the most decorated Olympian of all time.  The second person to join the party wave would Selena Gomez.  She seems really cool and it would be awesome to meet her.  I had to think a little bit for the last celebrity.  The third person to join the party wave would be Miranda Cosgrove.  I grew up watching her on Drake and Josh and in iCarly.  It would be awesome to meet her in person.  

What the best piece of advice you'd give to an aspiring junior lifeguard?

The best piece of advice that I could give to an aspiring junior lifeguard would be to always stay focused.  The moment you feel yourself getting tired or start to fall asleep while watching the water ask someone to come and relieve you.  You don’t want to put yourself in danger as well as the people in the water.  Being tired leaves a lot of room for things to go wrong and you don’t want anything to happen when you are called in to action. 

Another piece of advice I would like to give to a junior lifeguard is to invest in a really good umbrella. I currently use a Sport-Brella XL. Being a lifeguard at the beach and being in the sun all day drains a lot out of you. Almost everyone I work with has one because it's the perfect place to hide out when it starts to get really windy and sunny. Buying that umbrella was worth every cent and it's a real lifesaver.
Speaking from experience you really want to wear a lot of sunscreen as well. I've come home some days really burnt and it's not fun.  Make sure you protect yourself and always put sunscreen on.  But also remember to have a lot of fun, being a lifeguard has it’s perks and you should take advantage of them when you get the chance.

Want to discover more about Steven Brennan and his epic Slyde Adventures? Give him a follow on Instagram @Steven.Brennan

Steven Brennan rockaway beach

Michelle Michalak
Michelle Michalak

Michelle's diploma reads BA Psychology with a minor in English, and her license plate reads #CaliforniaDreaming4Life. She begin her career in the NYC fashion industry working with fashion and internet pioneer, However, due the constant "nagging" of her entrepreneurial spirit, her crush on surfing, and hardcore love for the ocean, she chosen to call San Diego home for the past 10 years. On the west coast she 's chased waves & enlightenment working alongside "Gurus" in the online marketing & personal development industries. It in May 2012 she found her true Zen & Stoke, and joined the Slyde Handboards Team.

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