The Oak Bluffs selectmen this week honored lifeguard Olivia Paolano, who recently rescued three swimmers off Inkwell Beach.

“At the end of the jetty, the current and the rip curl is just the perfect storm to take someone who is not expecting it,” Ms. Paolano, a student at Ithaca College, told the Gazette at the selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday.

Ms. Paolano received standing ovation from selectmen. — Alex Elvin

Town recreation director Marc Rivers, who presented a certificate to Ms. Paolano at the meeting, said the three rescues occurred within about 40 minutes, with help from beachgoers.

“I have five young ladies as the lifeguard staff this year and they are doing a tremendous job,” he added.

The selectmen and others offered Ms. Paolano a standing ovation.

Discussion then turned to the issue of life-threatening rip currents (narrow, fast-moving areas of water) that can pull swimmers away from shore. On the Vineyard rip currents have historically posed a hazard to swimmers in waters off Atlantic-facing beaches, especially in August.

“A lot of our sand is out into the water,” Mr. Rivers said. “So you can walk out a good 30, 40 yards and be up to your knees and your thighs, and then the next 10 feet, it just drops right off.” He added that many people don’t know how to respond when caught in a rip current. Swimmers should stay calm and swim parallel to the shoreline to escape, then swim toward the shore.

Amy Billings, chairman of the town parks and recreation department, said it has been a challenge to find lifeguards and suggested that the selectmen meet with the harbor master and other town officials after this season in order to plan ahead.