SHARC was created through a partnership between the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS) and New York Sea Grant (NYSG). MARACOOS is committed to supporting coastal stakeholders through the collection and sharing of data that improves resilience to coastal surf hazards in the Mid-Atlantic. New York Sea Grant supports research and provides education and outreach of coastal issues, such as surf hazards, to various stakeholders ranging from academics to municipal officials and beachgoers. The formation of this collaboration falls within priority areas for both MARACOOS and NYSG, specifically maritime safety and coastal hazards and resilient New York communities and economies, respectively.
Coordinating Data and Resource Sharing
Rip currents present a significant, and sometimes fatal, surf hazard to ocean beachgoers. Nationally, about 80% of all lifeguard rescues are rip current related and over 100 fatalities occur each year (USLA.org). With over 9 million tourists visiting Long Island annually, improving rip current prediction models and raising awareness about surf hazards and beach safety can help reduce ocean rescues and fatalities on Long Island’s beaches. In 2019, NY Sea Grant teamed up with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Observing System (MARACOOS) to help coordinate data and resource sharing among weather forecasters, researchers, and emergency responders.
While this network was originally formed specifically for rip currents, it has been expanded to include other surf hazards such as dangerous shore breaks and high surf conditions.
BUILDING THE NETWORK
In 2019, NY Sea Grant surveyed stakeholders engaged in rip current science and safety and found that multiple Long-Island based organizations actively issue warnings, provide educational resources, and assist swimmers caught in rip currents. While data and resources were being shared informally, we identified the need for a more formalized network to facilitate communication of rip current and surf hazard data, outreach, and emergency management experience. In 2020, NY Sea Grant and MARACOOS held a virtual workshop, bringing local stakeholders together to assess data needs and identify existing resources. The success of this initial meeting led to the formation of the Surf Hazards Awareness & Resource Coordination (SHARC) network.
EXPANDING THE NETWORK
SHARC’s membership includes rip current professionals from local universities, the National Weather Service, and lifesaving organizations working together to share data and resources to improve beach safety for Long Island beachgoers. While SHARC is currently focused on Atlantic Ocean beaches from New York City to Montauk, we hope this collaborative approach can serve as a model for other states and regions.