Project Eastern Europe 2015

Posted on: March 22nd, 2015 by Henry Reyes No Comments

Greek Lifeguards

“Fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens” -Thucydides

Experience the incredible opportunity of exploring the cradle of western civilization with ISLA! This will be ISLA’s second mission to the Balkan Peninsula to explore, work with the locals, and exchange & teach lifesaving ideas with the Greeks and Macedonians.

This year’s project will start in Athens, where we will meet with the Greek lifeguards of Hellas Lifesaving. There we will explore their facilities, meet their lifeguards and exchange ideas, visit a few beach operational sites, all before having time to explore the vibrant history and life of the ancient city of Athens.

After our exchange with the Greek lifeguards and with exploring the ancient city of Athens, we will be transported to Macedonia by our wonderful friends of the Macedonian Rescuer. We will have several days to share with us their beautiful country side, impressive ancient ruins, and some incredible caves up the pristine mountain canyons of Macedonia.

From there our team will post up in the quaint and beautiful little town of Veles, which is also the capital for the Macedonian Water and Mountain Rescue team, and run a 3-day ISLA Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course in nearby tourist area Lake Mladost.

Once the training is done, our team will have another day for further exploration of the country’s capital city while we complete an ISLA media tour with our new friends of the Macedonian Rescuer before our project is finished.

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

Hellas Lifeguard Training Center

Tentative Project Itinerary

5/23/15: Arrive at Airport in Athens, Greece (ATH)

5/24/15: Day with Lifeguards from Hellas Training Center

5/25/15: Free day to explore Athens. Overnight to Thessaloníki

5/26/15: Travel to Macedonia – Tour Ohrid

5/27/15: Free day to explore Velles & Skopje – River & Cave Tour

5/28/15: Instructor Course Preparation Day

5/29/15: ISLA Open Water Training Course: Day 1

5/30/15: ISLA Open Water Training Course: Day 2

5/31/15: ISLA Open Water Training Course: Day 3

6/01/15: Media Day and Awards/Certification Ceremony

6/02/15: Depart from Airport in Skopje, Macedonia (SKP)


Pre-Project Schedule

4/05/15: Eastern Europe Applications Close

4/13/15: Selected Volunteers Notified

4/17/15: $100 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due

5/01/15: $750 non-refundable project donation due

Eastern Europe Lifeguard Certification


ISLA Project Donation: $850 USD
Greece Entrance Fee: None (for U.S. Citizens, may vary by country)
Airfare: Varies*

*Each volunteer will be responsible for their own airfare to Athens, Greece (ATH) & Airfare departing from Skopje, Macedonia (SKP) ($1,200 – $1,400 from Los Angeles) and the $850.00 that will cover housing, most food, ground transport, uniform, and equipment donations for the project. Tour entrance admissions in Macedonia are covered with this donation.


      • 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 our past ISLA Projects in Eastern Europe.

We Are Paid In Sunsets

Posted on: March 2nd, 2015 by islasurforg No Comments

Grace Hamilton

Meet ISLA’s volunteer global lifeguard, Grace Hamilton. She joined ISLA for our Chiliean Lifeguard Exchange. Read more about her and her ISLA Experience, “This experience is paid in sunsets and unforgettable friendships that money can’t buy!”

When did you start lifeguarding?

I have been an ocean lifeguard for 5 years with the Australian Lifeguard Service. I also work for Australian Training Consultancy as a Trainer and Assessor for first aid and work at a beautiful gym and yoga centre Heart and Soul Health Clubs.

I began lifeguarding in 2010 for the AUSTRALIAN lifeguard Service and was situated at my home beach breaks across the Tweed Shire for three years. I then moved to Byron Bay where I have been lifeguarding in the Byron shire for the past 2 years as. I have been offered opportunities to lifeguard in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia but unfortunately have been at busy times and was unable to attend. In 2015 I was lucky enough to join the International Surf Lifesaving Association on an experience of a lifetime to adventure to Chile, South America. There myself and 3 other guards from around the world put our lifeguard skills to use.

How did you first get started with ISLA?

The Chile Lifeguard program for me was a very last minute decision. Initially I was thinking of heading over to Japan to snowboard with some friends for my uni break, but at last minute decided I’d like to put my time to a bit more use and began researching volunteer programs. When I came across the Isla website and read up on the chile exchange program i thought how unreal it would be to get on board something like this. I applied straight away, thinking it was a long shot and wouldn’t hear back from them. A few days later I was out surfing and came back to a few missed calls from an international number. I couldn’t believe it Isla got back to me I was accepted. Without hesitation I accepted and in less then a month later I was on the other side of the Pacific Ocean lifeguarding and surfing.

What was the ISLA Experience for you?

I didn’t really know what to expect on my adventure over to Chile, I hadn’t know many people from Australia that had visited the country nor did I have much time to prepare myself for it. All I can say is that now I’m home and have finished the program I do not regret one minute of it, I didn’t know anyone before I went over there now the once strangers have become close friends.

Some places I had only dreamed of to surf I was able to tick off my bucket list and the entire program was unbelievably a lot better then I could of imagined, visiting snow covered volcanic mountains in Patagonia, blue lagoons amongst the forests, white water rafting, jet ski training, skipping past the popular over crowded hot springs to the locals hot springs a little higher into the mountains, meeting many like minded surfers who’s passion is just to enjoy every spare moment in the salty sea yet are all individually driven towards success. The Isla Chile program 2015 was a 10/10 and It sure won’t be my last program with Isla.

From being in Chile and living in the lifeguard house in Tongoy as well as meeting many other Chileans I learnt that people can have so little yet give so much. My favourite saying was one that a lifeguard in tongoy told me ‘ we are paid in sunsets!

Chile Lifeguard Exchange

What do you do outside of lifeguarding?

I am currently approaching my third year studying nutrition and complimentary medicine at Southern Cross University. As well as holding over 30+ awards involving first aid or rescue techniques.

What are your interests?

My interests include the ocean and its beauty, the untouched presence of nature and education that promotes an overall well-being.

What are your hobbies?

My hobbies include surfing, nutrition, scuba diving and the occasional Sunday session with my friends whether it’s having a BBQ on the beach or adventuring to listen to some live bands.


What are your goals?

My goals in life is to simply just be the best person I can be and not waste time waiting around for something to happen. I’m pretty happy with my pathway in life at the moment. Studying what I love for a lifestyle choice and not so much a career path but if that’s how it works out I’ll be pleased with the out come also.

What is your favorite…?

My favourite colour is purple. Jack Johnson is my favorite beach music but I like to listen to a wide variety of music anywhere from Chet Faker, Blink 182 to Van Morrison. My favorite beach food is watermelon and grapes. I enjoy all types of sport, I’ve played a lot of field hockey and competed in surf life saving for many years as well as a couple fun surfing comps.

What is your favorite beach?

My favourite beach in the world would have to be between dreamtime at Fingal NSW or Broken Head NSW although Punta De Lobos, Chile was a real eye opener too and has to be up there.

What is your favorite rescue equipment?

The rescue board, it is effective in making quick and efficient rescued both at a distance off shore and in the break zone plus when I get some free time it’s always fun to go catch some waves on my lunch break.

What is your hope for drowning prevention?

Drowning is a major issue across the world, . The prevention of drownings is not going to happen over night nor is just one person going to put an end to it.
Through education and the building of skills worldwide i hope that around the world people can come together and collaborate ideas just like we did in Chile.

Grace Hamilton

Want to join our team?

Are you someone passionate about helping others? Interested in traveling the globe as a humanitarian lifeguard? Signing up to our newsletter below is the 1st step!

Meet ISLA’s Nicaragua 2015 “Charlie Team” Leader: Dave Wagner

Posted on: February 18th, 2015 by islasurforg No Comments

Dave Wagner
Where have you lifeguarded?
I am am a Huntington city beach lifeguard an junior guard instructor. I have also worked with ISLA in Nicaragua.

How did you first get started with ISLA?
I was on the first trip to Nicaragua. The following year I helped to organize the second annual trip to Nica.

What interests you most about ISLA?
The freedom. It’s kinda like the pirate life guarding association. When others have told us we can’t do the things we do, we’ve not only succeeded but excelled. We’ve always done things our way

Can you share any stories with us about your last Nica trips?
I probably shouldn’t…

David Wagner
What’s your Role in Nicaragua 2015?
Along with Henry Reyes and Will Koon, I will be leading a team of fine individuals into the Wild West.

What are you looking forward to the most on the upcoming Nicaragua trip?
Exciting rescues. I’m going to get to save a life. That’s the reason for all of this.

What were your first thoughts about leading an ISLA team?
I’m just happy to continue to be a contributing member to a great organization.

What will be the highlight of this year’s trip?
Nicaragua is the Wild West. There is a certain amount of unpredictability. You’re almost always guaranteed to see something that you would never see stateside. Like a man wearing a goat as a backpack while riding a motorcycle or a bunch of guys resting in a hammock while swaying in the back of a stake bed going 70.

What is your favorite food/meal in Nicaragua?
I actually don’t mid the Gallo pinto truthfully.

What is lifeguarding during Semana Santa like?
Semana Santa offers some challenges. First and foremost the crowds. Tens of thousands hit the beaches for the Holiday. Most of them are not swimmers. Nicaragua also picks up some large surf that can always be problematic.

What is the best beach food?
I try to stay away from the “beach food” just ask @imolinp. I have seen Reyes dig into an oatmeal flavored ice cream though.

Dave Wagner Lifeguard
What do you do outside of volunteering for ISLA?
I’m a student a CSUF studying music. I also teach private lessons in classical and jazz guitar.

Favorite thing about lifeguarding?
My favorite moments are in the twilight hours of the day. That point in time when the sun is slowly melting into the sea and the darkness slowly and steadily supersedes the oranges and reds and pinks; and the sun finally gives up and takes a break for the evening.

Favorite piece of rescue equipment? And Why?
Obviously, the sunnys. I’ve always got an outrageous pair.

What inspires you?
Lots of things. I’ve been searching for inspiration lately. I’ve found some in my teachers and my grandmother. Humility, also. The guitar fingerboard constantly humbles me. It fuels the fire. I don’t foresee that I’ll ever have the damn thing figured out completely.

Do you have any tips for the Nicaragua 2015 Team members?
Welcome to the show… Oh and bring some good sunscreen for your face.

Describe yourself in 3 words?
Tom Selleck Watermen

Interested in traveling the globe as a humanitarian lifeguard? Signing up to our newsletter below is the 1st step!

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

3/27/15: Semana Santa Applications Close

LAST CALL: Selected Volunteers Notified

ASAP: $100 non-refundable deposit and airfare purchase due

3/28/15: $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!

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