California State Assembly Member Honors ISLA VP with Award

Posted on: January 21st, 2015 by islasurforg No Comments

Raquel Lizarraga, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia

California State Assembly Member, Cristina Garcia launched the #Pride58 campaign to highlight the positive contributions, and recognize service and dedication in the community of the 58th District. Each week Cristina Garcia honors a deserving and inspiring individual…and on December 15, Cristina honored ISLA’s VP of Development, Raquel Lizarraga.

California State Assembly Member, Cristina Garcia alongside Cerritos College President, Dr. Linda Lacy presented Raquel Lizarraga with the #Pride58 Award.

“Drowning is a global epidemic, and it’s great to be recognized for my efforts in drowning prevention,”Lizarraga said. “My hope is to continue to change lives and empower others though education. It is a tremendous honor to receive the #Pride58 Award. I am truly grateful for the support and encouragement of my community,” said Raquel Lizarraga.

Raquel Lizarraga and Assembly Member, Cristina Garcia

Raquel Lizarraga works in the Technology Division at Cerritos College, and is passionate about helping students succeed. Raquel focuses on creating pathways to graduation for students in the Technology programs. She is a graduate of CSU Fullerton where she obtained her B.A. in Business with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship. For a class project, Raquel served as a student consultant for the non-profit group, International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) in a class, Raquel where she discovered that drowning is a leading cause of death across the world. Realizing she could raise awareness, educate, and prevent drowning through social media, she Raquel began volunteering at ISLA. She currently serves as Vice President of Development at ISLA, and travels across the globe leading teams of volunteers and educating local populations on about drowning prevention and through social media strategies.

Learn more about #Pride58. Read the official Press Release.

Dominican Republic Rescue

Posted on: January 19th, 2015 by islasurforg No Comments

Yoonatan Espinal

Training lifeguards and promoting lifesaving skills around the world is our passion. We at ISLA conduct our Basic Lifeguard Certification courses with the hope that our friends around the world can utilize the information and skills to keep their beaches safe. It always means so much when we hear from our course participants, especially when they make a rescue!

This month, one of our Dominican Republic course participant’s, Yoonatan Espinal, rescued a kid from a rip current in front of Viva Tangerine Hotel. Yoonatan was teaching kiting on the beach when he found the boy’s Mom crying….

Laurel Eastman Kiteschool

“I was teaching kiting at the Lauren Eastman Kiteschool. The currents were extremly strong while I was teaching and training a new assistant that day, luckily my assistant saw what was happening and ran to help. I started to run too and used the rip current to get close to the kid as fast as I could. Then I started to swim back to shore and luckily my brother, Yonny, was kiting and help us get towed in faster to the shore break.

There was nothing more grateful than seeing his mother with her face full of happiness when she saw her boy was OK and back to her arms. It was a desperated moment, but beautiful when it was over.”

-Yoonatan Espinal


Did you take our ISLA Basic Lifeguard Certification course and make a rescue? Want to share your story with ISLA? Email with your story!

Project Nicaragua: Semana Santa 2015

Posted on: January 9th, 2015 by islasurforg No Comments

Lifeguard Training
Get pumped for another exciting Semana Santa in Nicaragua!  Semana Santa in Nicaragua is a national holiday celebration traditionally associated with massive beach crowds, dangerous surf and ocean conditions, and multiple drowning events. This year we will be working alongside the Nicaraguan Red Cross on a Volunteer Lifeguard Mission during the holiday weekend.  During the volunteer Lifeguard Mission, both Nicaraguan guards and ISLA guards will live, share, and learn lifesaving techniques together!

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

3/30/15: Arrive in Managua

3/31-4/1: Tour Granada

4/1/15: Travel to Beaches

4/2-4/4:  Lifeguard with Nicaraguan Red Cross, daily train gin sessions

4/05/15: Lifeguard ½ day, Travel to Managua for departure or Popoyo to surf

4/06/15- ???: Surf Trip, Popoyo (Additional Cost)

Pre-Project Schedule

1/25/15: Semana Santa Applications Close

2/5/15: Selected Volunteers Notified

2/9/15: $100 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due

2/9/15: $750 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
      • Meals during Volunteer Lifeguard Portions (approximately ½ the trip)
      • In country transportation
      • 1 Year ISLA Membership
      • International Travelers Insurance for the duration of the project
      • Full ISLA Uniform
      • Equipment Donation

Check out past ISLA projects in Nicaragua!

Project Uganda 2014 Recap

Posted on: December 22nd, 2014 by islasurforg No Comments

Nile Swimmers Uganda

Before heading out to Uganda, we had all sorts of grand plans about each organization posting a blog on a different day so that we can #collaborate to cross-promote each other. As always, the best laid plans of mice & men go belly-up from the moment we get to Kampala. Will Koon (ISLA) was the advance party, with Dan & Justin (LWB) arriving a couple of days after… albeit without Justin’s luggage, which joined us from Amsterdam three days later. It was a fast and furious trip, with a very full agenda – and lots of meetings with all sorts of people.

Our first day consisted of a drive out to Jinja to see the source of the Nile, and a look around the region. It was fascinating to see the “Victoria Nile” as it is called there, and how different it was to the Nile in Sudan. Amazing to think about how the river changes along its length, yet the risks and challenges to the communities that live along the banks are very much the same.

The three days of training went quite well – it was a really nice pool venue, with everything we needed very close together. As expected, the skill levels of the participants varied enormously – from some members of the Ugandan National Swim Team, right down to people who would drown if they went into the deep end of the swimming pool.

Nile Swimmers

The key reason for us attending, was to support a significant “stakeholder” meeting. This was a huge effort by Moses Kalanzi to bring together the key movers and shakers – no mean feat in Uganda.

There were representatives from the Ministry of Education & Sport, the chairman of the National Council of Sports, a Colonel from the Uganda Police Defense Force, a representative from the Ugandan Marine Police. These are key agencies to link with, as they have the ability to influence schools and policies, and also the police have significant resources that are currently on focussed around the recovery of dead bodies, and not any drowning prevention.

On the aquatic side of things, the Uganda Swimming Federation, Uganda Lifesaving Federation, the Royal Lifesaving Society Uganda, and SwimSafe Uganda were all represented.

The message from the Ministry was clear;
Together you are stronger. You need to work as one body, and you need to speak to us with one voice.

The desire to work together is there, and the different organizations do have different strengths, and bring different elements to the table. A clear agenda was set to start to move things forwards – based on suggestions from the Police, and from the Ministry. The date for the next meeting is the 6th of December.

Dan Graham

We are very much looking forward to hearing all about the work that will be started. Expert support from international bodies is useful as a catalyst to start this kind of work – but the driving forces have to be local people. We are not there to build another international NGO – we are there to help the local organizations become more effective at the work they are already doing.

- Dan Graham, Co-Founder of Nile Swimmers

Note: This article was reposted with the permission of the Author. The original blog can be found here.

Watch a brief interview with ISLA’s William Koon about Project Uganda 2014:

Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation Donates Rescue Board to Fernandina Beach Lifeguards

Posted on: December 5th, 2014 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Angela Ray
What is your name?
Angela Ray

What is your lifesaving agency/organization?
City of Fernandina Beach Recreation Dept. (COFB) / Amelia Island Lifesaving Association (AILA)

How long have you been with both organizations?
COFB 10 years, AILA 5 years

What is the mission of each agency, and how do they prevent drowning and promote water safety?
COFB conducts Ocean Rescues, has pool lifeguards, uses the Red Cross Lifeguard Certification, conducts swim Lessons, and has a Junior Lifeguard Programs. The Amelia Island Lifesaving Association is committed to promoting and sponsoring activities that prevent drowning in our community.

How will the rescue board help your agencies carryout its mission?
The rescue board is being used to train lifeguards and junior lifeguards. The board is used by lifeguards to patrol open water swim competitions and junior lifeguard competitions.

Fernandina Beach Ocean Rescue Lifeguards
How did you find about that H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco was going to donate a rescue boards to you organization? What was it like hearing the news?
Henry Reyes contacted me and I was very excited and extremely grateful that the City of Fernandina Beach was blessed with such an awesome piece of equipment.

How did you feel when you received the rescue board?
Extremely grateful and I raced the board in a 6 mile prone paddle board race the weekend after we received it at a Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue Competition fundraiser. That was brutal but fun!

How have you used the rescue board? Besides racing it, We used it to keep our junior lifeguards safe at a competition in Jacksonville Beach when the surf was a little too big and the junior lifeguards were pushing the limits!

What is the best thing about the rescue board?
The Princess of Monaco paddle board is comfortable, light weight, fast, and has lots of handles for real rescue situations.

Amelia Island Lifesaving Association
How has the rescue board prevented drowning in your area? How has it made a difference?
We used it to keep our junior lifeguards safe at a competition in Jacksonville Beach when the surf was a little too big and the junior lifeguards were pushing the limits!

What does drowning prevention mean to you, and how do you prevent drowning?
The Amelia Island Lifeguard Assc. along with the City of Fernandina Beach, FL uses a multi-faceted approach to drowning prevention. We provide swim lessons (with financial aid), junior lifeguard programs, drowning prevents workshops, and guarded facilities and beaches.

What would you like to say to H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco?
Thank you so much for honoring our small community with such an incredible piece of lifesaving equipment. We are committed to the prevention of drowning in our community and we appreciate your contribution to our efforts.

Lifeguarding is Fun

Posted on: December 3rd, 2014 by raquel No Comments

Get to know our ISLA volunteer, Patty Lanham! She joined ISLA for our project in Bahia Asuncion this October. Read more about her and her experience as an international lifeguard!

Patty Lanham
I am a seasonal beach lifeguard 1 for the City of San Diego. I have an associate degree in Administration of Justice with a Law Enforcement specialization. I’m THIS close to finishing an associate degree in Open Water Lifeguarding at Miramar College. I am interested in everything! Mostly people and what makes them tick. I garden, I read. I take classes at the community college. I dance. I run at a very comfortable pace.

What are your goals in life?
I want to be happy. I want to help people. I want to be surrounded by good friends and to let the rest of it go.

What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are reading, surfing, swimming, roller skating, running, people watching, dancing, and I just started learning how to sew. I love a good vampire or werewolf book. I am totally addicted to romance novels. The kind you can pick up in the grocery store or airport. I’ve read so many of them it’s embarrassing.

What is your favorite beach in the world?
My favorite beaches are Newport Beach, Blacks, and South Mission. I’ve lifeguarded for five years for the City of San Diego. Pacific Beach, South Mission, Mission.

When did you start lifeguarding?
I started lifeguarding in 2010. I’ve been a swimmer my whole life and I always felt like it was something I should’ve done. So I did it! I am a lifeguard because I like my work to be meaningful. I love the silly things that happen. I love my coworkers. But it’s that moment when I really get to help someone that I live for. And I’m happiest in a job that is physical. I have a lot of energy. It’s pretty awesome being able to go in and out of the ocean all day too. Mostly I lifeguard because it’s good fun.

How did you first get started with ISLA?
The day before the application was due for Baja a lifeguard friend told me to apply. He’d gone on the trip the year before and said it was the greatest thing and I should do it. He was right. Thanks Mike!

What interested you most about ISLA?
I checked out ISLA’s website and it seemed to have a good mission. Drowning is so preventable and there are so many people worldwide who don’t know how to swim in the ocean. When you think about the last person you pulled out of the water and how many lives they touch…What am I talking about? Lifeguarding is FUN. And a chance to do something I love somewhere else with some other neat people? Yes, please!

Patty Lanham

What ISLA trip did you go on?
I went with ISLA to Bahia Asuncion, Mexico. Our junior lifeguarding got interrupted by a hurricane passing through. It was an adventure driving down there with a bunch of lifeguards. I want to go back. I worked with the youngest kids which was new for me. I’ve been a junior guard instructor before for a couple of summers but I worked with middle school aged kids. So I was a bit out of my element along with having a limited Spanish vocabulary. But with the little kids it was more activity based anyways. We did a couple in and out relays. We played beach flags. We gave beginning surf lessons. At first the kids were a bit shy. By the end of the day we were all holding hands in the surf getting smashed by waves. It was good fun.

I helped out at a CPR class where I showed the women and girls how find each other’s pulses. When the town officials shut the beach down due to weather we met with some of the kids to play. Some of us threw a football around while the rest were playing soccer or kickball.

On the last day we all participated in a mass rescue for the oldest kids. I put myself in deep water and when my rescuer came up close I was under water. He pulled me up and got me on the board. So I fell off and had to be rescued again. Then once I was brought in to shallow water with a couple other victims I collapsed and had to be carried out and they were all ready to begin CPR. They did great job improvising and working together to bring us all in.

Favorite thing about the ISLA project you were on?
I don’t think I can pick one favorite thing about the ISLA project I was on. I made so many cool new friends. I caught some awesome waves. I swam with WHALESHARKS. I don’t know how I’m ever going to beat that.

What have you learned from this trip?
I need to bring a mosquito net next year. Mosquitos LOVE deet. Always bring a spare key for your car when you drive down in Baja.

What inspired you on the trip?
The community in Bahia Asuncion inspired me. These people are close! It’s not like San Diego where I can go out in the day and not run into a single person I know. Everyone knows each other there and they are all friends. Our host, Jean, is pretty inspiring. She and her friends did so much to take care of us lifeguards while we were there. She’s pretty rad.

Is there anything that took you by surprise?
The beauty of Mexico took me by surprise. It’s just breathtaking.

What is the best beach food?
The best beach food for me is a bacon breakfast sandwich on a croissant with some coffee from Marina Village. For lunch I’ll take a sandwich from Dana Landing.

Patty Lanham

What is your favorite thing about lifeguarding?
I don’t know if I can pick one favorite thing about lifeguarding. There are so many. Awesome coworkers, waves, rip currents, people watching, rescues, sand, saltwater, sunburns, pranks, getting to wear flip flops to work…

What is your favorite piece of rescue equipment?
My favorite piece of rescue equipment is the old Surftech rescue board. You know the one I’m talking about. Rumor is they’re bringing them back. Can it be true? Please? Why? Because it works!

How will you continue to prevent drowning?
My plan for preventing drowning is to keep doing what I’m doing. Show up ready to work and help out. When I’m at the beach on my day off I’m still watching out for others. I’ll talk to anyone who wants to listen about conditions and how to stay calm and either get out of a rip current or stay afloat long enough to get some help. I’m always willing to help someone learn how to swim. I wish that swimming was a regular part of public education.

Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, Adventurous, Curious

What do you want to share with our readers?
Get yourself on one of these trips!

Want to join our team?

We’re looking to add more people to our volunteer team. Are you someone with the desire to travel the world? Someone passionate about helping others? Are you interested in volunteering for an organization that changes the lives of thousands of people around the world? Get Involved Now!