I Got Into Lifeguarding To Help Make A Difference

Posted on: June 18th, 2014 by islasurforg No Comments

Get to know our volunteer lifeguard, Silver Fox, and Fireman, Steven Vaughan! He joined ISLA on our trip to the Dominican Republic for the wild weekend of Easter (Semana Santa)! As Steve says, “Don’t let the grey fool ya!”



When did you start lifeguarding?

I started lifeguarding in 1980. At a place called Meads Pool, look it up, it’s on Facebook.


What got you into lifeguarding?

I got into lifeguarding to help make a difference, but mainly to educate the community about water safety and to help reduce water related injuries.


Where have you lifeguarded around the world?

Just the USA, and as of April, Cabarete, D.R.


What was the ISLA Dominican Republic trip like?

I had the honor and privilege of being selected for Semana Santa, Dominican Republic. It was an awesome experience with an awesome crew. Our job was to educate an all girl’s school about water safety and lifeguarding, which was a success, and our main objective and priority was zero drowning’s during Semana Santa, also a huge success. It was also about focus, excellent situational awareness, and awesome teamwork!!


What interested you most about ISLA?

Anything dealing with lifeguarding is certainly going to interest me. I was impressed with what the program was about( making a difference, education, and prevention) and I decided that it would be a great experience, to meet new and awesome people that share the same passion as me. It was also an opportunity to learn other lifeguarding and water safety techniques. I honestly didn’t think I would be selected because of my age, but fortunately, I was selected.


What do you love most about volunteering for ISLA?

First, The difference that we made with educating several people about water safety, especially with the Mariposa School. There were lots laughter, happiness, and smiles, these children loved every minute of the program. Second, zero drowning’s during Semana Santa, Saturday was overwhelming, but our team persevered and overcame some barriers to adapt to the surroundings and get the job done.


Why are you a lifeguard?

That’s a good question, since we all know that this job and the water can be unforgiving, tiring, and very demanding. But lifeguarding can be such a great positive influence on everyone. It helps promote a team oriented environment and a better sense of situational awareness.


What inspires you?

Teamwork, working together to help others and to overcome obstacles/barriers/problems, positive results.


What do you do outside of volunteering for ISLA?

I work for the Elizabeth City Fire Department, (28 years) assigned to Ladder Company 1, lifeguard on a small beach for Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City. I am also a member of Pasquotank Providence Volunteer Fire Dept.



Favorite piece of rescue equipment and Why?

I don’t really have a favorite piece of rescue equipment, but I know the importance of rescue equipment and use it as much as possible, especially the can.


How will you continue to prevent drowning?

It will always be education and prevention, especially with the children.


What is your hope for drowning prevention?

Of course I’m going to say that I hope it continues and keeps getting better, especially with education and prevention. It looks like we will have to use more technology to reach out to our younger electronic generation.



Of course Lifeguarding, but it’s more like my passion. Sailing, scuba diving, and soccer.



Associate degree in Fire Protection Technology and a Bachelor degree in Occupational Safety and Health


My goals in life?

To keep lifeguarding as effectively and safely as I can, I’m getting old you know, and to take care of my family and friends.



Teaching lifeguarding.


Favorite Sport?

Soccer, of course….is there any other sport?


Favorite music?

Classic rock and some modern rock.


What is your favorite beach?

Well… now it’s Cabarete, Dominican Republic.


Describe yourself in 3 words.

Dedication, determination, and empathy.


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?

Apply to join our team of International Lifeguards!

2014 ISLA Junior Lifeguard Scholarship Winner

Posted on: June 12th, 2014 by islasurforg No Comments

We are proud to say that for our third year of the ISLA’s Junior Guard scholarship, we were blown away with the number of applicants we had! ISLA would like to thank everyone who applied and for sharing your inspiring videos with us. Our only regret is that we weren’t able to give every applicant a full junior lifeguard scholarship.

The winner of the 2014 scholarship is Zeia Rose, a nine year old girl from Mammoth Lakes, California. Zeia would like to follow in her father’s, grand father’s and uncle’s footsteps by one day becoming a lifeguard. Zeia is also passionate about the ocean and helping others and believes that becoming a Jr. Guard is the first step.

We are excited and can’t wait to check in on Zeia throughout the summer season. We’ll be compiling a photo album series that highlights her junior lifeguard experience.

Although a video was not required for this years applicants, Checkout Zeia’s video scholarship entry.

ISLA Jr. Lifeguard Scholarship Award Winners:

2014 ($625 tuition award): Zeia Rose, 9 years old from Mammoth Lakes, CA.
2013 ($575 tuition award): Lauren Schlick, 15 years old from La Mirada, CA.
2012 ($575 tuition award): Richard Ramirez, 12 years old from Montebello, CA.
2012 ($575 tuition award): Gabriela McCain, 15 years old from Costa Mesa, CA.


2012 JG Video Series:

Part 1: Meet the Winners

Part 2: First Day of Junior Guards

Part 3: Pier Jumps and Pier Swims

Part 4: Graduation

A Lifeguard Becomes a Great Lifeguard Once…

Posted on: June 10th, 2014 by islasurforg 1 Comment


Our morning alarm is the Atlantic sunrise or the hopeful anticipation of surf. For Corolla Ocean Rescue, our daily routine happens to be adjusted daily. We do not blend in at the beach with those sunburnt and tangled amongst hilarious assortments of flimsy umbrellas and fussy children.

As lifeguards, we mentally prepare ourselves to manage emergency situations, as well as dealing with the mundane and frustrating experiences to which any guard can attest.  This spectrum ranges from performing CPR to answering, “What time do the dolphins come out?”  Not many people have the slightest idea of our responsibilities; therefore they lack the knowledge of how we prepare for and go about our days on the beach.  We know the beach inside and out. The waves, the weather, the sandbars, the wind, the tides, you name it; we collect these factors and go from there.

Lifeguards are trained to perform rescues and assist the patrons in any way necessary.  We are able to decrease the need for physical interaction through means of proactive and educational prevention.  A lot of beach-goers pay little attention to the lifeguard, and have no idea how valuable a simple conversation can be for the safety of their family.  Of course, a beach is much safer with a lifeguard manning the tower, but the highest potential for the safest beach lies in our hands as vigilant lifeguards.  Justifying this has been personified through the immortalized words of Corolla’s Lifeguard Captain, Mike Hudson, “It is easy to be a good lifeguard; it is hard to be a great lifeguard.”

There have been so many times, during a preventative mass advisory that the rip current being described is in fact pulling another victim out to sea.  A lot of people are embarrassed when they are seen being rescued from a rip current, but (in most situations) the embarrassment should be placed on the lifeguard.  One day I recall in particular, I was making a mass advisory to hundreds of beach patrons.  During the advisory I remember completely throwing myself under the bus so that the fear of swimming in the ocean was a little more bearable for the two brothers I had just rescued.  I told the brothers (and everyone else) that it was absolutely no fault of theirs, and that I was to blame for not telling them where it was unsafe to swim.  We need to admit our mistakes and ensure the public that we are aware of our responsibility to inform them to the best of our ability.  It is easy to sit and watch someone on the edge of a rip…we’ve all done it.  Set an example, talk to everyone, and redefine our stereotype.

I believe that experiences like these differentiate a good lifeguard from a great lifeguard.  Obviously this was not a riveting, edge of your seat example, yet it shows how aware a lifeguard should be in regards to his or her personal interaction with the patrons of the beach.  It all comes down to education and awareness, and this has to start on an individual level.  A lifeguard becomes a great lifeguard once he or she has fully embraced the responsibility of the job and expresses and outward eagerness to hold themselves accountable.

ISLA shares this acknowledgment of accountability, and that is the exact reason I feel the urge to put forth my best effort in supporting them.  I live on the West Coast now, but my NC roots will never come undone.  Regardless of where we choose to lifeguard, we need to do our best; we need to be great.

Learn more about ISLA volunteer, Ross Monroe.

Once Salt Water Runs Through Your Veins, It Is Too Hard To Live Without

Posted on: June 3rd, 2014 by islasurforg No Comments

Get to know our volunteer lifeguard, Natalie Taylor! She just joined ISLA on our trip to Nicaragua! Read more about her and her experience in Nicaragua!


I grew up in the water. When you walk through the door of my family home, no one worries about the dripping ocean water, the sand and salt is part of its infrastructure at this point.  There exists a familial love affair of the ocean, which led us to lifeguarding. Both my dad and two siblings guarded Huntington Beach growing up. My aunt (his sister) went on to become the first female lifeguard in Orange County, and then Newport Beach’s first female fire chief. By the time I was 6 years old, I was begging to start Junior Guards. So at that young age, I got thrown into the C group full of kids 2 years older than me.

During middle school, my family of six decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. In our 33 ft sailboat, we sailed from San Diego, down the coast of Baja California, up into the Sea of Cortez, down the coast of Central America, and finished our voyage through the Panama Canal. There are no pictures of us wearing clothes from this era, only bikinis. Every night, it was a contest between my sisters and I as to who would be the last one out of the water. After it looked like everyone was drying off, one of us would leap off the side of the boat into the dark water, now lit by moonlight or bioluminescence, just to claim the title of “Last One In.” This nightly routine would continue to cycle until our parents threatened not to let us swim at all the next day.


Along with lifeguarding, another huge part of my life has been volleyball. When it came time to pick a college, I decided I wanted to go to the best university I could and play the highest level of volleyball I could. I chose Northwestern University, where I would be competing as a D1 athlete in the Big Ten Conference. However, I quickly learned that once salt water runs through your veins, it is too hard to live without. Each summer became a much-needed escape from city life and back to my small beach hometown.


My three younger sisters all participated in Jr. Guards, went through rookie school, and became Del Mar Lifeguards as well. While there are many families in our department, but we are the only sisters. Four female siblings lifeguarding together is such an anomaly that The Weather Channel’s show “Lifeguard! Southern California” made a clip about us in 2013. I love getting to work with and share this passion with my sisters, especially when we get to paddle out to dive in the kelp beds during our lunch break together.

Every summer I lifeguarded, I learned more and continued to advance in rank. I got my first taste of emergency medicine as a first aid responder, and I enjoyed having a set of skills so when I responded on calls I was able to help people in distress. So I made the decision to pursue the challenge of being accepted to medical school. I am happy to say that this fall, I will begin working towards my MD, where I hope to continue to build my medical expertise and credentials.


I hope to continue working with ISLA and Lifeguards without Borders throughout my career. The organization is the perfect blend of all my passions: lifeguarding, foreign cultures, and medicine.  This volunteer trip was a way for me to teach others to love and respect the ocean as much as I do, and I hope to participate in many more trips to come.

Before going on this ISLA trip, I didn’t know what to expect. I had applied online, and while I had browsed the organization’s website, I had never met anyone who had participated on a trip or from within the organization. I did know, however, that I had always enjoyed the different people I met throughout the USLA community, at lifeguard competitions, or on Jr. Guard outings. You always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so I took a leap of faith. As one of the last to arrive in Managua, I crossed the road from the airport over to the Best Western. When I saw the rest of the team already in the pool sampling the local beer, I knew this was going to be an awesome trip.

I had been to Costa Rica, but had never to Nicaragua and assumed the two neighboring countries would be similar. But just because they share a border, doesn’t mean the two countries resemble each other in anyway and would be analogous to comparing the US to Mexico. Some equate present-day Nicaragua to the Costa Rica of 30 years ago: when Costa Rican colones were still more accepted than dollars and before western tourism took over. Yet, this generalization doesn’t even begin to describe how a brief flirtation with this country can turn into an avid life-long affair.

You fall in love with Nica because although the smell of burning trash and stray dog gangs follow you throughout this developing country, so do the feelings of going under a wave during the numerous body whomping sessions and of riding unharnessed in the back of a pick-up truck. You fall in love with Nica because as the only 6-foot blonde female in the country, intoxicated nicaragüenses stumble up to your tower from the crowds of the Semana Santa festivities just to stare at this unfamiliar sight. You fall in love with Nica because even though it is officially illegal to drive on the beach, 10 year-olds on quads still race along the sand 24/7, causing you to mentally prepare the first-aid protocol of your subsequent reaction if they were to crash. You fall in love with Nica because you are dropped off at your tower assignment each morning in a vintage Land Cruiser Ambulancia complete with a snorkel, and driven by the plump jefe who appears to have been in charge of this beach since the Spaniards conquered its shores. You fall in love with Nica because even though you are served beans, rice, and plantains for every meal, you are entertained by the solo female Nicaraguan lifeguard, who makes you shriek with laugher as she embarrasses all the male guards with her sassy impersonations of them waking up for early-morning workouts. You fall in love with Nica, because as you are saying goodbye to these new friends on the last day, one gives you their Red Cross hat from off their head, with their name etched in Sharpie inside, and you are elated by the fact that you have accomplished making a personal connection in a foreign culture. These are the adrenaline-raising experiences that make you feel so alive and it is during these moments that you do not wish you were anywhere else, but in this present.


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?

Apply to join our team of International Lifeguards!

Featured Event: Rip Current Awareness Week

Posted on: June 1st, 2014 by islasurforg No Comments

Rip Current Awareness Week

Event Overview:
In an effort to heighten public awareness of rip currents at surf beaches, each year NOAA designates the first full week of June as national Rip Current Awareness Week, coinciding with the traditional start of the summer vacation season. Rip currents are water moving away from shore. The strongest rip currents can attain speeds reaching 8 feet per second; this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! On average, more people die every year from rip currents than from shark attacks, tornadoes or lightning. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents, and more than 100 people die annually from drowning in rip currents.

About Rip Currents:
Rip currents can be found on many surf beaches every day. Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. The definition of rip current is: A powerful channel of water that flows away from the shore. They can be narrow or more than 50 yards wide.

Rip Current Myth:
A rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water–-they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills.

How to Avoid and Survive Rip Currents:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard protected beach.
  • Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
  • If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape.

Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

For more information about rip current safety visit NOAA‘s website.

It Was All Worth It

Posted on: May 28th, 2014 by islasurforg No Comments

Get to know our volunteer lifeguard, Ariel Crocker! She just went on her first ISLA trip to the Dominician to lifeguard during the wild holiday weekend for Semana Santa (Easter).


8 summers in the city of Del Mar.

Swimming – pool and ocean, yoga, baking, reading the New Yorker magazine.

BS from UCSC in Molecular Biology, EMT and I am applying to Med school.

Goals in life:
To be an ER doctor, and to continue to work towards living in the NOW as well as making smart plans for my future.

Favorite Books:

Harry Potter series!

Favorite Beach:
Playa Bonita in the Dominican Republic!!!

How did you get involved in ISLA?
I was introduced to ISLA via Justin Semsprott of Lifeguards without Borders, and loved the idea of traveling while being apart of something bigger than myself. What a way to get to know a country by volunteering along with Dominicans to promote safe ocean environments.


What was it like lifeguarding for Semana Santa (Easter) in the Dominican Republic?

This picture depicts the moment of the trip when I realized it was all worth it. The cost of my flight, leaving the familiar, sleeping in a small apartment with ten strangers, navigating a foreign country and many more reasons that could have deterred me.

Seeing the shock on the faces of the bystanders in the water because the Domincan people are not used to seeing lifeguards in their country. In the photo is my new lifelong friend and lifeguard from Dominican Republic, Joe, who was first out to the victim and I followed him with the paddle board. Joe is Dominican, and talking to him I learned so much about the culture of the Domincian Republic and had an insight to the country that I would have never learned if I was just traveling for pleasure.

The splash of water is another new friend Richard, from Flordia, coming out to back us up. I came to the Domincian Republic having a strong lifeguarding background, never did I expect to learn so much from lifeguards all around the world. Bringing this man in with the help of my new teammates and friends gave me such a sense of purpose that I haven’t felt in such a long time.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for a less crowded or chaotic apartment ever.

Favorite thing about lifeguarding:
That it is such an active job! I can’t sit still!

My favorite piece of rescue equipment is…

My fins…i love swimming and going fast!

I will continue to prevent drowning by…

Continuing to lifeguard and speak with as many patrons as possible, go on more ISLA trips!

My hope is that more countries realize the potential in education of drowning prevention and start to help themselves as well as asking ISLA.

3 words to describe yourself:
Empathetic, loud, and energetic.




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?

Apply to join our team of International Lifeguards!