Writer/photographer Gregory Andrus shares thoughts on his new book – Star News Group

BELMAR — Gregory Andrus spent years of his life telling the stories of others. His most recent effort was compiling his new book “Sand, Sea & Rescue: Lifeguards of the Jersey Shore”, for which he interviewed and photographed over 50 shore lifeguards and printed their stories.

Additionally, Mr. Andrus created the “Portraits of the Jersey Shore” blog, which can be found on Facebook and has been active for several years. The blog captures the faces and stories of beachgoers along the Jersey Shore. His first book shared the same name and premises.

At a book launch, hosted by the Belmar Public Library at the Taylor Pavilion, Mr. Andrus sat down with The Coast Star for the opportunity to tell his story and share his thoughts on the new book.

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What made you want to write this book? Why lifeguards?

It’s not an easy answer, it’s two things that converge: first, I love the ocean, it’s my favorite place on Earth. This is where I go to seek refuge, this is where I go to seek inspiration, this is where I go to pray, this is where I go to seek energy, everything. I had a really difficult childhood and it was the sea, it was the ocean that I found a safe place.

When I grew up, my childhood demons followed me. I ended up becoming an alcoholic in my twenties, I was often homeless in my twenties. When I was 28 I ended up being shot in the head by a police officer, I was an innocent bystander caught in a police chase.

I should have been dead… I had a second chance at life and I really wanted to do something with it.

…One of the things I realized was that looking back at my twenties, if I could have done it all over again, I would have loved being a lifeguard. To be able to go out there…so close to the ocean and be able to make a difference like that.

I realized that lifeguards, when they save a life, when they do a rescue, they give that person a second chance at life, like I was given.

So the two different spheres came together and integrated in a beautiful way, so I wanted to honor those people who use their youth to do good for others…using my second chance at life to honor them.

Is there a particular story in this book that particularly marked you?

There is a Manasquan rescuer named Brent Shibla…this man overcame so many obstacles to save these men’s lives. He and his other lifeguard partner [faced] mountain waves, boats that stopped there, and whatever happened: he was determined not to let this man go. He brought him down.

For me, what an analogy with life. Either way, there are things worth hanging on to and fighting for…safety.

Would you like to add anything else?

One of the things I really learned doing “Portraits of the Jersey Shore” and now the lifeguard story… At the end of the summer, when I was doing this book, two lifeguards lost their lives. The book commemorates these two lifeguards who died in service, and just to see the outpouring of people who came out to show their support for the families.

And also, when I meet people who are homeless, or in different situations, [like] battling addiction…I have firsthand experience of the kindness and compassion shown by this community, and I don’t think they are given enough credit. So many people want to help, so many people want to do good.

I am so proud of this Jersey Shore community, and I am so privileged to have this front row seat, to see all the good that is being done in our community through my “Portraits of the Jersey Shore” page.

This is an excerpt from the printed article. To learn more about this story, read star of the coast—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.

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