Project Ghana 2016

Posted on: May 17th, 2016 by olin patterson No Comments
the busy and warm beaches of Accra, Ghana.

The busy and warm beaches of Accra, Ghana that often have large and dangerous surf.


Children diving off a fishing boat off the beaches of Accra, Ghana.

Children diving off a fishing boat off the beaches of Accra, Ghana.


A panoramic of the nearby Shai Hills Wildlife Sanctuary outside of Ghana.

A panoramic of the nearby Shai Hills Wildlife Sanctuary outside of Ghana.


ISLA volunteers will have the chance to do the Canopy walk in Kakum National Park.

ISLA volunteers will have the chance to do the Canopy walk in Kakum National Park and view the wild life there!


Felix Fitness Foundation has reached tens of thousands of children in Africa with their aquatic safety programs.

Felix Fitness Foundation has reached tens of thousands of children in Africa with their aquatic safety programs. This next mission will be the beginning of formalizing a national ocean rescue team across many civil and public organizations.


ISLA project and adventure to Ghana… WEST AFRICA!!

Get ready for a life-changing and wild adventure to Africa! ISLA is adding a new project destination to its global list and is heading to Accra, the capitol city of Ghana! There we will work to collaborate with local lifesaving groups to pioneer the beginning of a national effort for water safety initiatives and create an ocean rescue team in Ghana. The first step of this long term initiative is conducting ISLA’s 3 day basic Open Water Course, as well as donating needed equipment for lifesaving efforts, including buoys and swim fins.

ISLA will be collaborating with Lifeguards without Borders, and Ghanaian-based fitness and drowning prevention group Felix Fitness Foundation to conduct the its Open Water Basic Training Course. Felix Fitness Foundation was founded in 2010 by Felix Uzor, a UK trained lifeguard and fitness coach as a way to reduce drownings in the region and provide the needed education and training for better water safety among children.

The project’s course will be conducted during the week of November 16-23, and will include a planned 100 Ghanaian students from Navy, Fire, Police, Marine Corps, and Disaster Management throughout Ghana, in the city of Accra. The long term goal is to create a biennial (every two years) training course in the region to continuously certify Ghanian ocean rescuers, supply further lifesaving equipment in the region, and create a strong relationship for future exchanges and lifeguard projects throughout the entire region!

The application process for this adventure is competitive, and priority will be given to those that turn in the application early… so don’t delay!!

Tentative Project Itinerary

Thursday, November 16th 2016: Arrive in Accra, Ghana*

Nov 16-18: Tour Accra and surrounding beaches and areas, this will include a nearby canopy forest and/or wildlife sanctuary (entrance fee of about 10 euro not included). This will be a great time to see much of the country, as well as bond with our team mates and meet many locals. Details are still being worked on but will be confirmed before the closing dates of applications.

Nov 19: Prep day for the training course.

Nov 20-22: Conduct ISLA Open Water 3 day training course in Accra, Ghana.*

Nov 23: tour in the morning, and depart for home in the afternoon.*

*Project dates are pending and will be confirmed prior to the close of the application process.

Pre-Project Schedule

Sunday, June 19th 2016:  Applications Close at 11:59pm PST!*

July 17th 2016: Selected Volunteers Notified.

July 24th, 2016: $100 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due.

September 23rd 2016: $850 non-refundable project donation due.

*Applicants who apply early are giving preference.

ISLA Donation: US$850
Visa application fee: $50-$150 dependent on your country. Call your consulate for more information on this process.
Airfare to Kotoka (ACC) International Airport: (from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) this ranges from $900 to $1300).


  • Transportation to and from the airport and during the extent of the trip
  • Lodging during for the extent of the trip (Nov. 16-23)
  • 1 Year ISLA Membership and ISLA Membership Kit
  • Meals during Volunteer training portions (approximately ½ the trip)
  • International travelers insurance for the duration of the project
  • ISLA Uniform
  • Equipment Donation to the Felix Fitness Foundation to be used for creating a national ocean rescue team in Ghana.

Entry, Exit, Visa Restrictions and IMPORTANT Health Notice:

  • A passport and a visa are required!!!
  • MALARONE (a malaria prevention prescription from your doctor) is needed for the extent of your travels (and a week before and after).
  • A valid VISA is MANDATORY. Call you consulate for details but this process can take UP TO A MONTH after purchasing your airfare.
  • Additional health and safety issues will be issued to applicants accepted on this trip.





Curso Internacional De Salvavidas Oceanico Basico (1-3 de Junio, 2016)

Posted on: May 13th, 2016 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Doce ISLA salvavidas instructores de Australia, Canadá, Irlanda, México y los Estados Unidos llevará a cabo un curso básico de salvavidas en aguas abiertas en Ensenada México. No se pierda usted la oportunidad de ser certificado como un salvavidas Internacional de la Asociación Internacional de salvamento de la resaca.

Para obtener más información póngase en contacto con Ron Jensen en:


Introduction To An Ongoing Tragedy

Posted on: April 19th, 2016 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Samantha Faith Reilly

I recently returned from Greece, where, from the 11th through the 20th of March, 2016, I volunteered to help the lifeguards along the eastern coast of Lesvos, Greece, respond to scores of water crafts coming ashore filled with refugees from the civil war and genocide in Syria. While working there I represented the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) and wore their bright blue uniform.

Throughout the duration of the trip I assisted in the rescues of approximately 250 people. Our overall mission to ensure there were no drownings and to cross-train among lifeguards around the globe was successful.

On the flipside, I witnessed at first hand one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. I want, now, to share some stories to create awareness of this issue, and to ensure that those who have risked their lives are not forgotten.

The most tragic event I witnessed was seeing two men lying dead on the bottom of a raft. Both individuals had cardiac arrests at sea, and no one on board was able to provide aid. As soon as the raft pulled in, a nurse, an EMT, first responders and I did everything possible to resuscitate them. We worked until the ambulance arrived, but to no avail. An article written about the event can be found HERE.

refugee boats


Notes taken on individual rescue missions:

13 MAR 2016 – Lifeguard Hellas Rescue Boat

Run #1

We were called to Saint George beach, Lesvos, Greece, for visual on three incoming rafts. Upon arrival, the Greek coast guard had already taken about 80 refugees onto their vessel, and radio-contacted us to collect the empty rafts and other debris in the water. (See PIC 1)

Run #2

En route back to the harbor from Trip One, we came upon two boats with at least 40 refugees on each. Proem-Aid SAR vessels escorted the rafts on the port side while Lifeguard Hellas took starboard. We went as far in as the bow would allow, and watched as the rafts drifted to shore, where scores of volunteers were waiting to usher everyone off and provide them with much-needed dry clothing. (See PIC 2)

Run #3

Approximately 0735 in the morning, Lifeguard Hellas received coordinates for a raft full of refugees with a seized engine. The coxswain, a deckhand, and I rushed to the pier where the rescue boat was docked, and deployed at 0750. The sea state was 3. There was moderate fog, and winds while moving were strong enough to blow my packaged fins/mask up off the deck. I held on for dear life while scanning the horizon as the coxswain, a lieutenant in the Greek army, skillfully pierced his way through the waves. After a bumpy wet ride to about 3 nautical miles off the coast of Lassia Beach, Greece, the raft was spotted in the distance. The refugees greeted us with glee, happy that to be saved; however, their happiness quickly turned to fear during the precarious process of getting them off their raft onto our boat. Altogether, we rescued 17 people (14 male, 2 female, and a 3-month-old infant) off their raft onto the Lifeguard Hellas craft. From there we gave them a ride to a larger SAR ship patrolling nearby from Frontex (EU), from where they were later taken to the nearest refugee camp in Greece. (See PIC 3)

20 MAR 2016 – Shore Lifeguard

Run #8

We were called to leave our post in Lassia and go to Changing Tables beach to help with an incoming raft filled with approximately 60 people. The raft got stuck 50 yards from shore, so lifeguards had to work to pull it in. Most of the people on the boat were mothers with toddlers, and elderly. Everyone was brought to shore okay. A 3-year-old girl needed first aid for abrasions on her lower right leg.

Run #9

At approximately 0430 we were requested to leave our post in Lassia and go to South Beach for visual on a raft. The boat was jam-packed with a close-knit village of 60 people. Screams rose as the crowd thinned enough to reveal two men lying motionless on the deck with a small child trapped underneath them. Medics and volunteers worked to carry the men ashore while the Lifeguards prevented anxious relatives from climbing over the sides and possibly tipping over the entire raft. A man in the crowd popped the raft, creating a loud noise that sounded like a gun shot. In sheer terror, all remaining persons either jumped or were pushed off the raft into the water. Lifeguards rushed to grab the small children first and then went back to get the adults, a second priority since most of them could stand in the thigh-deep water. Despite the extreme chaos, all persons made it to shore and were given food, clothing, and comfort by the ERCI volunteers. After no more water work was needed, we helped administer CPR.

Run #10

At approximately 0630 we left our post in Lassia and head toward a raft sighting south of Mytilene airport. We waited ashore as a raft full of refugees came in. The scene couldn’t be more picturesque – the refugees were singing as the pastel hues of the morning sun slowly rose. To my shock, one man jumped out of the boat roughly 400 yards from shore in anticipation. The three rescuers in front of me remained motionless, so I sprinted toward the survivors as fast as I could, only to find him roughly swimming himself. I swam alongside him till we were both comfortably standing, and then raced over to the boat that was slowly drifting ashore. This particular boat was filled mainly with women, children, and the elderly.



At some time in your life you’ve, no doubt, experienced large crowds — whether on a NYC subway, during Black Friday, or as a spectator at a large parade. Now, imagine squeezing your entire extended family onto a small raft, and traveling for hours in frigid temperatures while being splashed with cold waves.

What terrible conditions these people must be faced with in order to leave their homes and everything behind and undertake a perilous journey like this, all for the hope of safety.

Being fully enveloped in this tragedy was a shock. My whole life, I’ve been sensitive to humanitarian needs such as the homeless in both the NYC and Nashville urban areas. Unfortunately, those situations are nothing, compared to the magnitude of human suffering occurring as a result of this mass migration.

You tell yourself that dramatic social economic juxtapositions have existed all over the world for centuries; however, it really doesn’t hit home until you see it firsthand. While at the airport I found it painful to see people spending big money at the duty-free shop while less than 300 yards away there were hungry refugees carrying everything they owned in small soaked bags along the shoreline.


Having received permission to leave my command only two days before the itinerary, I hadn’t learned much Arabic. During the orientation, I quickly picked up two words that definitely helped me later.

The first word was “Shalam,” for “welcome.” It was important to make clear to the refugees in the rafts that they were approaching friendly lands, so they wouldn’t behave erratically.

The second word I learned was “Shway, Shway,” which roughly translates to “slowly.” This expression helped to ease the refugees’ impatience and prevent panic while they waited to disembark the raft. If too many tried to get off at the same time, there was a serious risk of capsizing and/or injuries.

No matter what words you used, speaking in a calm voice was the most important thing, to avoid agitating anyone further, or cause alarm.

ISLA Team 7


My duty in Greece was typical for a lifeguard: wait for days without anything, but when the calls start, they come in nonstop. Working 11 to 20 hour shifts in a wetsuit is exhausting and uncomfortable. The weather for most of the week was cold and stormy. When we couldn’t make a fire, we’d sleep overnight in a car. Each day I would silently remind myself I volunteered to do this, for the purpose of being there to help others.


There were several humanitarian groups on the scene to help at all the beaches. I had the opportunity to meet the UN goodwill ambassador, Angelina Jolie, as she perused camp Moria; however, I chose to use my few hours of spare time just to unwind.

Media coverage was unrestricted, so the ISLA team and I inadvertently wound up pictured in a German newspaper, on the Greek MegaTV, on UK Channel 4 news, and many other outlets.

The bottom line: In one week’s time, our team assisted in rescuing more than 400 people.


Relations between good Samaritans could be surprisingly ugly, as well. On the beach you had lifeguards muscling with cameraman, doctors arguing over how patients were treated, and egotistical volunteers who weren’t open to sharing their territory to “newbies.” The immediate and inevitable response is, WTF! Has everyone lost their heart?


I believe the general public has grown jaded by photos of war-torn adults, starving children, and other horrific images. Syria is only one of many areas where needless human suffering exists on a terrible scale.

lifeguard hellas


This is REAL. This isn’t a movie or a money-making scam. It’s time for our leaders to put their heads together and sort this out. It’s time for the general public to help others any way they can.

Passive silence or straight ignorance is, in its effects, just as bad as the perpetrators. No act of kindness is ever wasted, no matter how small. In the year 2016 one would hope that we, as a society would have evolved higher than this.

I believe most people have given up or forgotten that they have the power to make a difference — or even better, a fundamental change. The act of helping empowers everyone involved. If this issue isn’t one that resonates with you, you don’t have to look far to find a need within your own community.

Attached are some images taken while working on-scene. They are a good reference, but they fail to successfully communicate the full experience.

Speaking for myself, this trip to Greece strengthens my resolve to join the emergency medical service.

Thank you for reading—and for acting.

Samantha Faith Reilly (ISLA Team 7 Member & US Navy Surface Rescue Swimmer)

‪#‎bethechange‬ ‪#‎soothersmaylive‬ ‪#‎ISLA‬ ‪#‎LifeguardHellas‬ ‪#‎safepassage‬‪ #‎volunteer‬

Proofed by J Michael Rowland

Featured Volunteer: Mary Parker

Posted on: April 6th, 2016 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Mary Parker Lifeguard

ISLA caught up with Mary Parker from Australia, a volunteer from our humanitarian project in Indonesia. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about your professional lifeguarding work experience.

I’ve worked for Surf Lifesaving Queensland as a paid lifeguard on both beaches and pools since 2013, and my most recent employment is as a lifeguard and swim coach at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. I’ve also worked in Townsville, in tropical North Queensland, which means I’m used to working in hot, humid conditions, and I am also familiar with preventing, identifying and treating deadly jellyfish stings.  I have also worked as a Community Awareness Presenter for Surf Lifesaving Queensland. In this role, I assist in teaching refugee and indigenous groups about surf-safety and swimming skills in order to lower the drowning rate in these demographics.

Do you volunteer in Australia?

Aside from my paid employment, I have been a passionate volunteer patrolling member of my local Surf Lifesaving Club, Townsville Picnic Bay, for seven years. This means I spend at least two Sunday’s a month on the beach as a volunteer lifesaver, working in a patrol team.

I’ve also volunteered, and become qualified, as the Age-Manager for the U/6 and U/7 year old “nippers” (young lifesavers) for 4 years – I taught the nippers basic swim skills, water and surf safety, craft-riding techniques (largely on boards) and competition skills.

Mary Parker

WOW! As an active member in your lifesaving community, have you ever received any awards for your efforts?

I was recognized for my volunteer work by Surf Lifesaving Australia: in 2013 I received Queensland Under 18 Young Surf Lifesaver of the Year, which was a testament to my dedication as a lifesaver.  A few other recognitions include:

  • North Barrier Branch Young Surf Lifesaver of the Year (2013)
  • North Barrier Branch First Aid Champion (2013 & 2014)
  • Townsville Picnic Bay SLSC Age Manager of the Year (2012)
  • 1st U/17, U/19, and Open Female Rescue and Resuscitation Queensland State Champion (2013)
  • Townsville Picnic Bay SLSC Female Age Champion (2012 & 2013)

Tell us about a notable experience where you’ve helped someone out of a bad or potentially dangerous situation.

Just a few months ago I had a guy stung by a baby box jellyfish after he was told not to swim in the water! He was swearing a lot, but he let me pour vinegar on his legs. He had accidentally grabbed the tentacles with his hand, so his hand was stung, then he touched his arm, so his arm got stung. He had actually pulled the jellyfish off with his shirt, but he wanted to put his shirt back on because he had a swastika tattooed on his chest, and I quote: “Mate I need to cover it up because it’s a bit racist.” His shirt was covered in tentacles which I pulled off and buried, but he wouldn’t let me pour vinegar on the shirt, so I wasn’t that keen to let him wear it. Finally he borrowed one of his friend’s shirts — they thought this whole scenario was really, really funny.

I told the guy that if it had been a bigger boxy jellyfish he could have ended up in hospital, or gone into cardiac arrest. I also tried to convince him to get secondary medical attention after he had his shirt on, because his leg was coming up in welts. But, he assured me that he had a super high pain tolerance, and refused any further assistance, but thanked me for “teaching him ’bout jellies.” It’s not the most serious case I’ve ever dealt with, but it was the weirdest!

Mary Parker Lifeguard

Have your travels ever taken you to a place where you felt culture-shock?

Last year I went to New Zealand (my first time overseas) as part of a study with UN Youth, comparing Indigenous relations in Australia and New Zealand.  We visited a living Maori village and spoke to the people there about how they fight to keep their culture and language alive. Our group came away with a better understanding of ideas surrounding land rights and cultural appropriation. It was really beautiful, and definitely not like anything I’d experienced before!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am currently studying a bachelor of Law/Honors  with a bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the Australian National University in Canberra (a long way from Townsville!).  In my free time, I go to swimming training and I love to visit the beach. I also play the flute and I am part of my college’s choir, and I love reading and writing.

What’s your favorite beach?

Etty Bay, a little beach tucked away in Tropical Northern Queensland. People say it’s where the rainforest meets the ocean: it is on the other side of a large hill, surrounded by dense, bright green rainforest, white sand, and crystal blue, water that is never too choppy because the bay is quite protected. Unfortunately, being tropical, swimming at Etty Bay during summer is dangerous because of the crocodiles and jellyfish – I love that it’s a little bit wild, and being able to swim there in certain seasons only makes it more special.

Mary Parker Surf Life saving

What do you love most about lifeguarding?

There are many things I love about being a lifeguard, like being outside, or being at the beach, but my favorite would have to be the ability to interact with new people everyday. I feel as though I learn as much from them as they do from me! It is always interesting to hear people’s stories – whether they’re tourists, locals, or even other lifeguards!

I enjoy the feeling that I might be making a difference in other people’s lives –  being able to educate people on the dangers of tropical waters, or what they should do if they get into trouble on my beach or in a remote location. When teaching swimming and lifesaving outside of regular lifeguarding, I am always motivated by the fact that I am increasing surf-awareness and water-safety, and decreasing the risk of another person drowning on Australian beaches – our goal is always zero preventable deaths between the red and yellow flags.

Why did you volunteer for an ISLA humanitarian project?

I am most interested in the intersection between activism to prevent the global drowning epidemic and the role of the lifeguard that ISLA promotes. I am passionate about the idea of young people acting as activists to develop innovative and creative solutions to water-safety problems all over the world.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Diligent, Sunny, and Active.

Project Southern California 2016

Posted on: April 2nd, 2016 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Southern California LifeguardsThis is ISLA’s 1st humanitarian project on our home turf of So Cal!

You’ll arrive and discover Los Angeles, a huge sprawling metropolis located on the Pacific coast of the United States, where the team will meet up for a day of exploration in this dynamic city. The following morning, we will meet and greet lifeguards from several Southern California lifeguard agencies, and have a BBQ on the beach that evening. The next day we’ll start the day with a “Dawn Patrol” surf secession in Huntington Beach (also known as Surf City USA). In the evening we’ll pack into our van and head out to Ensenada, Baja California (Mexico), in preparation for our 3-day ISLA Basic Open Water Course with the local university.

Huntington Beach Pier

In Ensenada we’ll meet our ISLA course participants and learn about Baja California’s beaches, operational sites and lifeguarding resources so that we can share ideas and techniques. Between training course days in Ensenada, we’ll be sure to wander the beaches and journey through this tourist town in search of the ultimate surf tacos.

ISLA Instructors

After our training course ends, the team will take some time to explore the local sites of Ensenada, “La Bufadora”, do some wine tasting at the local vineyards, and participate in some shenanigans at the world famous Papas & Beer.

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

*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.

Santa Monica Pier

Tentative Project Itinerary

Saturday, May 28th 2016: Arrive in Los Angeles, CA (LAX Airport)

Sunday, May 29: Tour Los Angeles/Orange County Beaches & evening beach BBQ

Monday May 30: Surfing at Huntington Beach, Travel to Ensenada, Mexico in the evening

Tuesday, May 31:  Planning and Instructor preparation day

Wed – Fri, June 1-3: Conduct an ISLA Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course

Saturday, June 4th: Tour Ensenada, Mexico & visit “La Bufadora”

Sunday, June 5th: Visit Ensenada’s wine country for brunch, then travel back to So. California

Monday, June 6th: Depart LAX Airport or travel on your own!

Pre-Project Schedule

April 24th, 2016:  Applications Close

April 25th, 2016: Selected Volunteers Notified

April 25th, 2016: $100 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due

May 6th 2016: $850 non-refundable project donation due

Ensenada Donkey


ISLA Project Donation: $950 USD
United States Entrance Fee/ Visa: (Varies by country)
Airfare to Los Angeles, California USA: Varies

*Each volunteer will be responsible for their own airfare to Los Angeles ($250 – $500 from Vancouver, Canada) and $950.00 that will cover housing, some food, ground transportation, uniform, and equipment donations for the project.  Evening BBQ (on 5/29), Touring in Ensenada is covered with this fee, the Brunch on 6/5 is an additional cost.


      • Lodging for the duration of the project
      • Meals during Lifeguard Training Course (approximately 1/3 of the trip)
      • In country transportation
      • 1 Year ISLA Membership
      • International Travelers Insurance for the duration of the project
      • ISLA Temperate Weather Uniform (backpack, shorts, Shirt, hat, jacket)
      • Equipment Donation


Project Nicaragua: Semana Santa 2016

Posted on: February 22nd, 2016 by islasurforg 1 Comment

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

Monday, March 21st 2016: Arrive in Managua

Mar 22-23: Tour Granada

Mar 23: Travel to Beaches

Mar 24-26:  Lifeguard with Nicaraguan Red Cross, daily training sessions

Mar 27: Lifeguard ½ day, Travel to Managua or Popoyo to surf

March 28: Depart Managua or Surf Trip (Additional Cost)

Pre-Project Schedule

Feb 28th 2016:  Applications Close

Feb 29th 2016: Selected Volunteers Notified

Mar 4th, 2016: $100 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due

March 18th 2016: $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!