Project Nicaragua: Semana Santa 2017

Posted on: January 15th, 2017 by islasurforg 1 Comment

Lifeguard Training
Get pumped for another exciting Semana Santa in Nicaragua with ISLA & Lifeguards Without Borders!  Semana Santa in Nicaragua is a national holiday celebration traditionally associated with massive beach crowds, dangerous surf and ocean conditions, and multiple drowning events. We will be working alongside the Nicaraguan Red Cross on a Volunteer Lifeguard Mission during the holiday weekend. This year a few members of our team will be traveling to the East Coast of Nicaragua and will be providing lifeguard services in the Caribbean! During the volunteer Lifeguard Mission, both Nicaraguan guards and ISLA guards will live, share, and learn lifesaving techniques together!

East Coast Nicaragua

Prior to lifeguarding with the Red Cross the team will have the opportunity to explore Granada together, exploring the lake Nicaragua Islands and touring the local volcanoes.  After Semana Santa, members of the team may be traveling to Playa Popoyo to surf their hearts out for a few days!  This is a great opportunity to visit a new place, meet incredible new friends, and share special skills that will help protect lives!

*There is no language requirement for this project, although Lifeguards who are bilingual (Spanish) and have training experience will be given priority in the application process.

ISLA Lifeguards

Tentative Project Itinerary

Monday, April 10 2017: Arrive in Managua

April 11: Tour Granada

April 12: Travel to Beaches

April 14-15:  Lifeguard with Nicaraguan Red Cross, daily training sessions

April 16: Lifeguard ½ day, Travel to Managua or Popoyo to surf

April 17: Depart Managua or Surf Trip (Additional Cost)

Pre-Project Schedule

Jan 29th 2017:  Applications Close

Feb 6th 2017: Selected Volunteers Notified

Feb 10th, 2017: $200 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due

March 24th 2017: $650 non-refundable project donation due

ISLA Lifeguards


ISLA Project Donation: $850 USD
Nicaragua Entrance Fee: $10 USD (for U.S. Citizens, Varies by country)
Airfare to Managua, Nicaragua: Varies

*Each volunteer will be responsible for their own airfare to Managua ($400 – $700 from Los Angeles) and $850.00 that will cover housing, food, ground transport, uniform, and equipment donations for the project.  Housing and Touring in Granada is covered with this fee, the Surf trip to Popoyo is an additional cost.


      • Lodging for the duration of the project (hotels, hostels, & camping)
      • Meals during Volunteer Lifeguard Portions (approximately 1/3 the trip)
      • In country transportation
      • 1 Year ISLA Membership
      • International Travelers Insurance for the duration of the project
      • Full ISLA Uniform (shirt, shorts, hat, back back)
      • Equipment Donation

Check out past ISLA projects in Nicaragua!

Project Ghana 2016 Recap

Posted on: December 8th, 2016 by islasurforg No Comments
Ghana Lifeguard

Course participants practicing their rescue skills.

This past November ISLA sent a team of volunteers from Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Ireland, and the USA to the African continent to run our 1st Basic Open Water Training course in Accra, Ghana!

With the help of  our partner Lifeguards Without Borders and the hard work of our host Felix Uzor (founder of the Felix Fitness Foundation), members from over 10 different organizations in Ghana made up our training class of 123 participants. The organizations involved included: Felix Fitness Foundation, Ghanaian Navy,Ghanaian Army, Marine Police, Fire Service, NADMO, Ghana Lifesaving and Diving Association, Ghanaian Red Cross, Zoil, Ghanaian Sea Cadets, and Uganda Fire and Police.

Ghana Lifeguards Swimming

ISLA training Participants competing in a physical event.

The team hit the ground running, literally, and braved the large 6-9ft surf of the Atlantic. With many rip currents, rocks and inshore holes they worked hard and overcame the challenging conditions as ISLA Instructors ran the course safely with the biggest group of participants that our organization has ever had to train. Throughout the 3 days many of the locals came down to watch as our participants ran, swam and practiced their practical lifeguarding skills. Numerous times the group broke out into chants, cheering each other on, which could be heard all along the beach.

Ghana Lifeguards

ISLA/LWB Basic Open Water Lifeguard Class of Ghana 2016

The participants abilities were all over the spectrum with some never even swimming in the ocean before, or even being past the outside surf break. Teaching basic swimming rescue skills & rescuer scene safety therefore became a major part of the training course. This was the first Basic Open Water Lifeguard course in the country and the participants, along with the instructors, pushed themselves past their limits and came out stronger. In all 8 were awarded with ISLA’s International Open Water Lifeguard Certification. Every single participant left with more knowledge and skills then they arrived with, thus achieving one of ISLA’s main goals.

Enoch Sackey Ghana Navy Diver Lifeguard

Some of our participants waiting to show their skills in their practical assessment.

Our volunteer instructors were well taken care of by their host throughout their stay in Ghana, and were able to fully experience the country once the course was over. They got to try local favorites such as Fufu and Banku, they took on shopping in a traditional market place at the heart of the city, they learnt local dance moves while dancing to a live reggae band on the local army base, visited Cape Coast Castle (a fort known for its use to house slaves during the Atlantic slave trade) and so much more.

ISLA Lifeguard Instructors Accra, Ghana, Africa

Our wonderful team of volunteers!!!

ISLA and its volunteers would like to thank their Ghanaian host Felix Uzor and his foundation for their hospitality and in country support throughout the project. We’d also like to thank all the participants who gave it their all and the organizations who supported and helped realize this project.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s fight drowning together.

Keep your ear to the surf for upcoming projects!

– Jazmin Flores

Project Indonesia 2016

Posted on: October 7th, 2016 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Visit the World’s Largest archipelago…Indonesia!

Don’t miss out as ISLA & Lifeguards Without Borders embark on their 1st project in Indonesia! With thousands of square miles of coastline, the splendors of Indonesia are as many as its countless islands.

We’ll arrive and discover Jakarta, a huge sprawling metropolis and Indonesia’s capital located on the northern coast of Java, where the team will meet up.  The following morning, we boarding a public bus and we’ll be meeting our friends from Surf Lifesaving Pangandaran, who will be waiting to pick us up from the Pangandaran Beach bus stop. During the bus ride, the ISLA team will be preparing for our 3-day ISLA Basic Open Water Course.

Tom Renner

In Pangandaran we’ll meet our ISLA course participants and learn about Indonesia’s beaches, operational sites and lifeguarding resources to share ideas and techniques. Between training courses in Pangandaran, we’ll be sure to wander the fine sand beaches and journey through this remote town of beach resorts and lush natural park wonders.

On our final day in Pangandaran, the team will take some time to explore the best kept secret of Pangandaran, “a piece of heaven on earth” known as Green Canyon.

You will meet lifelong friends, experience the beauty of Indonesia, and have the adventure of a life-time!
ISLA Training

Tentative Project Itinerary

December 17, 2016: Arrive at Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia (CGK)

December  18, 2016: Travel to Pangandaran Beach & Prep for Training Course

December  19, 2016: ISLA Open Water Training Course: Day 1

December  20, 2016: ISLA Open Water Training Course: Day 2

December  21 2016: ISLA Open Water Training Course: Day 3

December  22, 2016: Cascading Tour of Green Canyon

December  23, 2016: Travel back to Jakarta

December  24, 2016: Depart from Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia (CGK)

pangandaran lifeguard

Pre-Project Schedule

October 16, 2016: Project Indonesia Applications Close

October 21, 2016: Selected Volunteers Notified By

October 21, 2016: $200 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due

November 27, 2016: $750 non-refundable project donation due

Green Canyon


ISLA Project Donation: $950 USD
Indonesia Entrance Fee: None (for U.S. Citizens, may vary by country)
Airfare: Varies*

*Each volunteer will be responsible for their own airfare to Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK) in Jakarta, Indonesia. Round trip airfare from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) is approximately . $800-1,300. The $950.00 donation will cover housing, most food, ground transport, uniform, and equipment donations for the project. Tour entrance admissions in Indonesia is also covered with this donation.


      • Lodging for the duration of the project
      • Meals during Volunteer Lifeguard Portions (approximately 1/3 the trip)
      • In country transportation
      • 1 Year ISLA Membership
      • International Travelers Insurance for the duration of the project
      • Full ISLA Uniform
      • Equipment Donation


The Purpose of Life Is Not A Function But An Experience

Posted on: August 30th, 2016 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Meet humanitarian lifeguard, Simon Lewis!

Simon Lewis

Tell us about your training, skills and experience:
I started lifeguarding as a way to meet local friends, help my community and hopefully gain some kind of tan (still in progress). I have been nominated/received numerous lifesaving awards in my country, and yet I value maintaining a high level of professional guard training as the key to making my job/life easy, enjoyable, and well rewarded. I was appointed the Director of Lifesaving at St Kilda Lifesaving Club, which makes me responsible for all lifesaving operations to our state’s (Victoria, Australia) busiest beach, with over 10,000 beach goers on some days during the summer on just a patch of 900meters of sand (yes it is chaos at times but it’s never boring and you never know what’s next). From there I have been lucky enough to use my lifeguarding skills around the world and join the ISLA family.

How did you get involved with lifeguarding?
I originally got into lifeguarding at St Kilda Beach in order to use the Sea Baths gym for free. I had just moved to the town and I did not know anyone.. So it was easy to make likeminded fitness friends, and drinking buddies to show me around when you work as a lifeguard. From there, I was able to move quickly from pool lifeguarding to ocean guarding, rescue, helicopter training, and everything in between. I found my feet as a lifeguard quickly, and worked out that this would be my career path. I have never looked back.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Motivated, compassionate, accustomed.

What’s your favorite thing about being a lifeguard?
The people that enter your life with the stories that they share, or the stories that you make together while helping others… Oh and trying not to laugh in public at the ‘interesting’ things you see every day.

What interests you the most about ISLA?
For me, my road to joining ISLA was based on an image of a drown Syrian boy with the simple question to myself of “Why am I sitting at home when I have skills to help children like him?” … I applied for ISLA’s Team 1 to Lesvos, Greece the next day and the reward and ability to learn from others around the world in that experience has been so useful in saving lives on my beach, that I am forever grateful to have made those friends and leant their skills. Being part of an ISLA project you don’t really feel your legacy reward until your home. You start seeing photos (online/facebook) of your knowledge of water safety past on and shared in the communities of the people you helped, and that’s when you realize that you’ve helped create a safe aquatic environment for their families and future generations to enjoy.

Simon Lewis Lifeguard

How many ISLA Projects have you been on?
The SoCal trip was my 2nd for ISLA in 6months.

What was it like to be a part of ISLA 1st humanitarian emergency response team in Greece?
It was a trip that changed all of us that volunteered. Those of us who went to Lesvos have a unique bond of friendship and support with each other. You simply know what the experience was like for all the volunteers and how we all felt on the ground there. You can’t undo what you saw when you were witnessing history. We all had our stories/ reasons of why we chose to go there, but being on the ground allowed for all of us to truly grow into humanitarians 1st, and professional lifeguards 2nd. The ISLA team that I was on came together very fast. Within 45mins of being on the beach on the 1st day, we were helping 200+ refugees from just one boat.

How was the SoCal project different from your mission in Greece?
The SoCal trip was about providing ocean safety education and sharing knowledge that will help Mexican service providers and lifeguards. That means that the students who we taught will go on to lead a legacy of change in their communities that will hopefully set their new standards of professional care, response, and lifesaving protocols. Our team provided the building bricks in a house full of the best knowledge from around the world. It will be up to them take the journey and be the step in being the change. In Greece, we came to share our skills, and put our bodies on the line 24hr a day. We helped by supporting and filling shifts for Greek lifeguard friends. We were there to rescue and give dignity to those in need of help.

Simon Lewis St Kilda Lifesaving Club

What did you enjoy most about the SoCal/Mexico experience?
The journey you have from the moment you leave your house and until you return is full of so many wonder moments that you laugh, smile and go WTF at. We had such a great time together! We had access to many areas the public does not see (thanks to the ISLA staff), and that taught us lot of cool tricks we will use at our home lifeguard services. One of the most enjoyable moments for our team happened while we was running a game of flags. The participants and instructors were battling it out on the sand while one lonely surfer was trying to catch small waves. This surfer got into some trouble and the students that we taught responded and rescued this guy using the skills they practiced and learnt over the last 3 days. It was truly a beautiful moment, likewise was when Kyle and Graham past out in a Mexican nightclub:)

What was the highlight of the SoCal trip?
For me, the highlight of my trip was seeing the progress of the students and watching them become lifeguards. We had one student whose cousin had drowned on the very beach that we were training at. This student was able to overcome that and commit 100% to becoming someone who can save others from drowning. That was powerful stuff that you can’t buy and you can only thank ISLA for getting you there to be a part of that persons story and life.

How do you see yourself being involved with ISLA in the future?
I enjoy meeting people and all the learning you get from these trips. You make lifelong friends from around the world in such a short time together, that they are always welcome to stay at your home and experience your city. When the chance comes to join more trips in Asia, it will be easy for me to get involved and help out.

Simon Lewis ISLA

Lifeguards Without Borders Announces Dr. Martin Hedstrom III Memorial Scholarship

Posted on: July 26th, 2016 by Henry Reyes No Comments
About Dr. Martin Hedstrom:  Martin was an ocean rescue lifeguard in Jacksonville Beach, Florida before completing medical school in the Dominican Republic. He was a charter member of Lifeguards Without Borders and was dedicated to community service and drowning prevention. More importantly, he was an adventurous, outgoing, all-around awesome guy that was a close friend and brother to us all. He was a best friend to everyone he met, and gave everyone of us stories upon stories to tell of our travels, rescues, and adventures. He was a family man and had 3 children with his wonderful wife. Unfortunately, while his wife was pregnant with their third child, Martin’s life was cut short when he died unexpectedly while undergoing cardiac surgery. This year would have been Dr. Martin’s 35th birthday, and makes the fifth year of his passing.

Purpose of the Scholarships: To seek out and support individuals and/or organizations with projects that embody the values of the late Dr Martin Hedstrom. These projects should put talents and resources to use reducing the global burden of fatal and non-fatal drowning, with an emphasis on prevention, public health, and sustainable development.

Scholarship Awards:

  • $500 Undergraduate (Applications due September 1st, 2016)
  • $1,000 Post Graduate (Applications due September 1st, 2016)
  • $1,500 Project Grant (Applications due December 1st, 2016)



Check out who Lifeguards Without Borders announced the individuals that embody the spirt & values of their Co-Founder Dr. Martin Hedstrom for last year:

William KoonWilliam Koon 
has travelled the world to bring access to emergency medicine and professional rescue to low and middle-income countries. He has trained lifeguards in many developing nations, including the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Mexico, and delivered a Congressional address at the U.S. Capitol regarding an online tracker for international drowning incidents developed with ISLA. He is pursuing a Masters in Public Health at the University of Washington.

Trevor McDonalsTrevor MacDonald recognizes the scarcity of research that has been conducted within the field of open water lifesaving and aims to do something about it. His Masters thesis at California State University Los Angeles is titled “Strategic Assessments as a Lifesaving Tool: An Examination of Expectancy Violation and Strategic Assessments as it Relates to Marine Safety” and aims to collect more data about how California lifeguards parse through large crowds and determine which bathers require closer attention. As a 10 year veteran Huntington Beach lifeguard, it’s a subject he’s more than qualified to tackle.


Andre Adam

Andre Adam is a lifesaver out of Hot Water Beach, New Zealand, known for being one of the most dangerous beaches in the country. The nature of his rescue work there inspired him to pursue medicine at Otego University where he has earned top honors and two commendations from the Dean for high marks and work ethic.

Da Quecye Swain

Da’Quecye Swain‘s survived drowning experience inspired him to become a lifesaver. He was recently able to return the favor when he performed a double rescue on two brothers who had gone beyond their depth. He is studying communications at Baldwin Wallace University with a triple minor in Politics, Legal studies and Public Relations

Erin Cole

Erin Cole is getting over the heartbreak of leaving her beloved Sonoma County lifeguarding gig for UC San Diego’s halls of academia. Erin spent many years as a junior lifeguard counselor and lifeguard supervisor at Sonoma and will use her degree to continue drowning prevention and water safety education with young people.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to everyone who applied, it is so cool to see folks from so many different backgrounds and locations interested in using their knowledge and skills to help decrease the global burden of drowning.

The $1,500 Project Grant winners will be announced later (Applications are due December 1, 2016). Keep an eye out for applications for next year’s individual scholarships.

Thanks for your support!
Andrew Schmidt, DO, MPH
Director, Lifeguards Without Borders


How is my ISLA donation spent?

Posted on: July 26th, 2016 by olin patterson No Comments

ISLA project donation