ISLA exists to advance professional lifesaving development to areas in need around the globe.
Out of a deep passion for open water and a strong desire to prevent drownings, ISLA aids people in championing the aquatic safety situation in their own coastal communities.
We do this through lifeguard training programs, lifeguard exchanges, equipment donations, purchasing connections, and utilizing the latest technology to sustain a global network of lifeguards that share information, techniques, stories, and culture. Our wish is to see friends and partners around the globe have the necessary tools to keep their water safe.
ISLA is a social justice-driven organization that is young, innovative, and not afraid to do things for the first time.
We are ultimately guided by the infamous mantra: “Safety third, winning and looking good are number one and two!” We adventure the globe with purpose, seeking to share life and help protect it.
The global drowning epidemic compels us to take action as we pioneer new ways to think about drowning in the developing world and effective solutions that will save thousands of lives.
ISLA uses both ground-breaking technology and tried and true techniques; we follow in the tradition of those before us without fear to push it to a whole new level, constantly seeking to improve ourselves and the work we do. We welcome challenges and strive to leave a positive impact wherever we go.
Our team lives on the edge, is ready for any adventure, and is prepared for any situation.
We live simply and we work hard, but that doesn’t stop us from watching the sun rise twice without sleeping, exploring new lands, surfing down volcanos, zip lining across the jungle, climbing into ancient caves, and trying the local brews with our new friends, all the while contributing to drowning prevention.
In 2008, four Huntington Beach Jr. Lifeguard Instructors; Peter Eich, Scott Hunthausen, Olin Patterson, and Henry Reyes wanted to create a movement that would bond their friendships for life and encompass their for passion ocean safety. That year, Scott had returned home from a study abroad semester in Nicaragua where he witnessed the alarming drowning rates (+70 people in just 4 days on a 120 mile stretch of coast) during the Semana Santa holiday (Easter)… Thus began ISLA.
Our volunteer base started with seven Junior Lifeguard Instructors from Huntington Beach, CA (The 4 Co-founders plus: Matt Henry, Rory Kelly, & David Wagner). Little did we know the vast amount of people from other lifeguarding agencies had the same idea…. so they joined us! ISLA has since grown into a dynamic team of lifeguards, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, & military personnel from various agencies throughout the globe!
The ISLA Innovation
"When we first started ISLA we focused on securing sponsors & grants, and we we were good at it! But, If we want to grow from 1-2 projects per year, and respond to all the global requests for aid… we’re going have to raise the funds ourselves! "
– Henry Reyes, ISLA President
ISLA Hall of Fame
"We only look so tall because we’re standing on the backs of giants!" ISLA would not be the organization it is today without the dedication from these individuals:
Raquel Lizarraga William Koon
Squad Leader / Sr. Instructor
Nicole Emerson has over 5 years experience as an Ocean Lifeguard in for the city of Jacksonville Beach, Florida and the American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps. Niki also works as lifeguard for NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars infamous pool at EverBank Field. Niki’s also one of our “Lifetime Members” and has been on several ISLA projects in 3 continents.
Squad Leader / Int. Security Advisor / Sr. Instructor
Mike Hudson serves as our International Security Advisor and Instructor II for ISLA. Having volunteered on multiple ISLA missions to Nicaragua, Ecuador, Dominic Republic and USA (Lake Michigan), Mike brings his lifesaving experience & empathy to the table in providing for the hearts & minds of the global ocean safety community.
- BS in Emergency & Disaster Management with an emphasis on Public Safety from WCU.
- Public Safety Professional: Chief Operator – Corolla Beach Rescue; Firefighter/ EMT – Currituck County Fire & EMS; Lieutenant Firefighter – Corolla Fire Rescue (volunteer)
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- BS in Computer Science Management from Cal Poly Pomona
- Created the ISLA Global drowning Tracker
Project Coordinator / Instructor II
Flavia has been involved with lifeguarding for the past eighteen years as a Junior Lifeguard, Cadet, and then professional Lifeguard. Almost twelve years professional lifeguarding experience as a Newport Beach Ocean Lifeguard with involvement as an instructor in the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard Program. Flavia started going on international lifeguarding trips almost seven years ago.
- BBA in History and Philosophy from UCLA, and currently taking courses in preparation for medical school.
- 5 ISLA project so far.
Project Coordinator / Instructor II
Tom Renner serves as Project Coordinator for ISLA. As a lifeguard for the City of Laguna Beach’s Department of Marine Safety, he has moved up the ranks to Ocean Lifeguard III and runs the city’s Junior Lifeguard Program. Tom received a Bachelors Degree in Public Health with a minor in Psychology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. While others in his classes would study the prevalence of obesity and smoking, Tom would focus his studies on drowning. Tom has participated in ISLA humanitarian missions in Mexico, Chile, Greece, and Indonesia. He now attends California State University San Marcos where he is working towards his Pre-Health Professions Certificate to one day attend medical school.
Nick has been lifeguarding for over 21 years. He’s a swimmer by trade working for the East Bay Regional Park District Fire Department/Lifeguard Service as an Aquatic Supervisor. Nick also spent a year studying aboard in Santiago, Chile and has traveled to Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico several times. Being half Peruvian, he has a passion and love for Latin America.
- BA in Humanities and Fine Arts (Spanish) and a minor in International Business.
- Aquatic Supervisor & Fire Lieutenant (Part-time) .
David Wagner IV
Project Coordinator / Instructor II
Wag’s is a 18 year veteran lifeguard with the City of Huntington Beach Fire Department in California, USA. Dave is an JG Instructor Supervisor and oversees the city’s “A” Division (14-17 age group) which consists of 5 ocean lifeguard instructors and over 200 students. On his days off he can be seen at 7-Eleven enjoying a double-super-duper Big Gulp of Pepsi.
- Ocean Lifeguard / JG Instructor Supervisor
- The film “The Lifeguard”(1976) was based on the true story of Dave Wagner.
ISLA’s Board of Directors
Co-Founder & Director
Olin Patterson serves on the Board of Directors and is a Co-Founder of ISLA. With over ten years of lifeguarding, business, and international development experience, Olin has been leading teams of ISLA volunteers all over the globe while developing the brand and digital direction of ISLA.
- BA in Business Administration 2007 with an emphasis in Finance and Entrepreneurial Studies from PLNU.
- Professional Creative & Marketing Director
Co-Founder & President
Henry Reyes is a Co-founder of the organization and is currently a Harbor Patrol Officer for the Santa Monica Police Dept. Henry started guarding at intercity pools at 15 years of age before becoming an Ocean Lifeguard with the City of Huntington Beach in 2000. With over 21 years of experience and a thirst for adventure, “Don Pico” has been leading teams of ISLA volunteers all over the globe.
- BA in Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship from CSUF. AA in Aeronautics, Anthropology, Economics, & Philosophy
- Harbor Patrol Officer
As the Marketing Director of ISLA, Julie has been with ISLA from day one. She holds a B.A. in Marketing Management from California State Polytechnic Univ., Pomona, and has 10+ years experience in the advertising industry. She is currently working at a top U.S Hispanic advertising agency, managing top Brands in development and execution of award-winning national marketing campaigns. Julie has seen ISLA grow from a small non-profit, to an international organization with partners and supporters worldwide. She has traveled with ISLA to several international trips as a volunteer and also serves as a translator for teams in Latin America. Her passions outside of helping others include soccer, sun and any kind of outdoor adventures with family and friends.
Dr. Justin Sempsrott
Justin Sempsrott is a graduate of the University of South Florida College of Medicine and did his residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Nevada, School of Medicine. In 2006, he founded Lifeguards Without Borders and serves as their Executive Director. Dr. Sempsrott is also the Medical Director For Starfish Aquatics Institute and Brunswick County EMS in North Carolina and an Emergency Medicine and EMS Physician in coastal NC. He speaks around the globe on the topic of drowning. He has been an ocean lifeguard in Jacksonville Beach, FL since 1996.