Frequently Asked Questions


IMPORTANT: Thank you for taking the time to read these frequently asked questions prior to contacting ISLA. We are currently a 100% volunteer based organization, and our team gets hundreds of inquiries every month. 99% of the information you may need is available on the ISLA website.  Information regarding upcoming trips are usually announced via our newsletter, it’s the BEST way to be informed about all ISLA activities as they become available!


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What Is ISLA’s Goal?

Our goal is to reduce drownings in areas with alarming drowning rates by advancing professional lifesaving development in places in need.

How many people die every year from drowning?

Drowning is the leading cause of preventable death! According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2014 Report on Drowning:

  • There are an estimated 372, 000+ annual drowning deaths worldwide.
  • Global estimates are significantly underestimated as the data to measure the actual public health problem related to drowning is unreliable .
  • Children, males and individuals with increased access to water are most at risk of drowning.

To learn more about this global pandemic click HERE!

How did ISLA Start?

Four Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Instructors: Peter Eich, Scott Hunthausen, Olin Patterson, and Henry Reyes started ISLA in 2008. The Co-founders wanted something to bond their friendships for life and to continue their passion for lifeguarding. The idea of ISLA became a realization when Scott returned home from a study abroad semester in Nicaragua where he experienced the drowning of his host family’s friend’s son, and witnessed the alarming drowning rates in the country during the 4-day Semana Santa holiday (Easter).

How many humanitarian projects has ISLA conducted?

From 2008 to Dec 6th 2016, ISLA has conducted 39 humanitarian projects in 14 countries, and all because 294 volunteers made it possible! In two weeks we’ll be starting our 40th humanitarian project with the help of 14 more volunteers.

What makes ISLA different?

Our volunteers as so passionate about ocean safety that not only do they volunteer their time, but they also pay (or fundraise) all their project related expenses, and sustain the organization. Our project volunteers are our friends, workforce, and donors all rolled in to one!

Why doesn’t ISLA focus on fundraisers, attracting corporate sponsors/donors, and winning awards like other organizations?

Back when we first started we use to do this… and we we’re quite good at it!!! Except… we realized that we were spending all of our administrative time and talents pursuing these objectives, but only executing 1-2 humanitarian projects a year.  Our Board of Directors decided to shift funding strategies by focusing on helping our growing requests for humanitarian projects; now we’re executing 6-10 projects per year!

What Projects (trips) are coming up, and when can I apply?

Check out our list of international projects! Make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter to be notified of open applications for our humanitarian projects.

How much does it cost to volunteer for a Project?

All travel expenses are the responsibility of the volunteer. Cost per Projects vary; generally volunteers pay their membership fee, cover the cost of their airfare; and depending on which project you participate in, we ask a $750-1,500 USD donation to ISLA.  There are always opportunities to fundraise for your trip if you’d like to minimize costs.

Why do I have to donate money in order to volunteer for an ISLA trip, and how is this money spent?

GREAT question!!! Some people fundraise thousands of dollars in order to run a marathon to raise money for cancer research, but never see how and where that funding goes, they’re even much less evolved with the doctors and scientists in the field who are working to make a difference. When you sign up to become an ISLA volunteer, YOU are the donor who is put in the front-line of lifesaving, and you instantly get to see the impact your making in these communities.  While every  humanitarian projects  is different, HERE is a general look at where your ISLA Trip Donation goes.

Is ISLA a registered charity and is my trip donation tax deductible?

Depends on where you live… Yes, ISLA is a registered 501(c)3 charity in the United States (#26-3679133), and your trip donation is tax deductible if you file tax returns in the USA, but not if you file returns in other countries.

Is there a minimum age requirement to volunteer for an ISLA trip? What’s the average age of a ISLA volunteer?

To participate in an ISLA Project the volunteer must be at least 18 yrs of age. We’ve had volunteers in their 70’s join us on projects and some that turned 18 just a few days before being deployed. The average age of our volunteers is around 26 yrs old.

Do I have to be an Ocean Lifeguard to volunteer for a project? If so, what certifications do I need?

Our volunteers do not have to be professional lifeguards. ISLA has grown and continued to expand its range of volunteers, to accommodate nurses, doctors, paramedics, ski patrollers, police officers, EMT’s, translators, photographers, travel writers, and administrative aids. All of our volunteer lifeguard positions are HIGHLY competitive, the more certifications you have the better your chances of being selected for a trip are.

How do I volunteer to go on a trip?

You can apply online! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer on a trip you must first sign-up to our Newsletter. The Newsletter will notify you when a application period opens, the Code of Conduct, and Release and Hold Harmless. Once you apply, we will send you a notification via email about your application.
Does ISLA offer scholarships to participate in one of it’s humanitarian projects?
Yes, but they are awarded privately to lifeguards in developing countries.

I’d like to join ISLA, but I can’t go on an trip at the moment? 

NO PROBLEM! The easiest to support our volunteers in the field  is to become an ISLA Partner for Projects Member.  Did we to mention that you also get a sicq ISLA membership kit and amazing deals on the gear you want at our ISLA Surf Shop!

What are the steps to get involved?

  • Step 1: Sign-up to our Newsletter
  • Step 2: Create awareness by following ISLA on Social Media
  • Step 3: Become an ISLA Partners for Projects Member
  • Step 4: Volunteer for a humanitarian project

Do you have administrative internships?

We are constantly looking for like-minded people to help further the story and message of ISLA. Read More

I represent a lifesaving organization in my country, what services does ISLA provide? How do we get started in planning a humanitarian project? How much does it cost?

ISLA can provide services depending on your need including:

  • Rescue Equipment
  • International Lifeguard Certification and Training
  • Lifeguard Volunteers During Peak Season/Holiday
  • Junior Lifeguard/Nippers Camps

To get started, just visit our Request ISLA Services page and fill out the application. Our services are free of charge for humanitarian projects, tho we do require our host to provide, accommodations, some food and ground transportation for our volunteers while their working in-country.

I’m a Professional lifeguard, Non Government Organization, or For-Profit Agency in a country outside the United States, how can we collaborate under the ISLA banner?

It’s simple! Just visit our Request ISLA Services page and fill out the application.

What type of training does ISLA offer?

  • Lifeguard training
  • Basic Open Water Lifesaving
  • Basic Oceanography and Marine Hazards
  • Lifeguard Systems and Operation
  • Basic Beach-Related First Aid
  • Communication/Job Skills
  • Aquatic Rescue recognition and realization
  • Beach related first aid
  • Introduction to oceanic safety systems
  • Professional lifesaving job development
  • Physical training (running and ocean swimming capability)

What if the Project I wish to collaborate on is “for profit”?

ISLA is all about humanitarian projects; There NEEDS to be a humanitarian aspect even if the Project is “for profit” based (i.e. donating a few spots in the training to local emergency personnel). If the Project is “for profit” based, ISLA would get a reasonable donation in return to aid in other Nonprofit Projects. Use our  Request ISLA Services page to get started.

How can I get the latest information from ISLA?

How can I donate?

We love donations. There are various ways to donate to ISLA.

  • Donating Items: see below
  • Donating Money: see below
  • Donating by Shopping: see below

How can I donate money?

  • Online: Donating online is our easiest option. You can donate using any major credit card buy utilizing the blue “donate” button on the upper right corner of our website
  • Check: Send checks (please no cash) to our Huntington Beach location: International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) 8941 Atlanta Avenue #220 Huntington Beach, CA 92646

Tax-deductibility: International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, so all donations made directly to the organization are tax-deductible. Tax receipts: Contact: for a tax receipt.

How much of my donation goes towards administration salaries?

None, ISLA is a 100% volunteer based (even the management).

What kind of items can I donate?

  • Fins
  • Buoys
  • AEDS
  • Wetsuits
  • Uniform Articles
  • Whistles
  • Binoculars
  • Rashguards

How can I donate by shopping?

The money from your purchase change lives around the world. The money from your ISLA store purchase goes towards sustaining our programs for drowning prevention. Your purchase allows us to conduct trainings around the world, and to continue to add more areas. You can get all our products on our online store.

Where does ISLA get the majority of its funding for humanitarian projects?

We get the majority of our funding from generous donations (see above on how to donate) and from our volunteers themselves. They pay for all the expenses (airfare, etc.) of their trips, and a bit more the equipment they leave behind as a donation. The projects in developing countries (nonprofit) are usually done in exchange for food, housing, and in-country transportation.

Where can I get Information regarding ISLA Lifeguard Certification?

All of our information regarding our lifeguard courses can be found HERE!

Does ISLA charge for its certification courses?

ISLA does charge a small fee for its training, expenses, and services to organizations that are able to pay (i.e. Private agencies, hotel associations, tourism boards, individual water professionals, etc.) in order to lower the costs for our volunteer instructors and trainees in humanitarian projects that can’t afford to pay.

Why does ISLA conduct a “Basic” Open Water Lifeguard Course?

The ISLA Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course exists for several reasons. First, the training is meant to be a crash course in basic rescue for a layperson or volunteer. The majority of our trainees are not paid lifeguards; they are volunteers with local humanitarian organizations that donate minimal time, employees that have beach related jobs at a hotel or private business (Kite/Surf Instructor, Cabana or Rental attendant, Bar Tender), or are members of the public actively seeking to help make their communities safer. For that reason, this course offers the need to know basic tools of open water safety and lifeguarding in an extremely short amount of time to maximize efficiency and impact. Lastly, the ISLA Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course serves as a foundation for students to further their own training.

What are the P.R.I.D.E. Themes of the ISLA Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course and what do they mean?

Prevention of drowning or injury in any body of water
Recognition of dangerous conditions and hazardous areas
Identification of a person in need of assistance or rescue
Discernment in personal ability to help or call for help
Empowerment to take charge of the aquatic safety situation in the community

ISLA realizes that every situation in any region with any rescuer is going to be different, and for that reason we heavily emphasize the importance of prevention and scene safety throughout the course. We stress the value of self-awareness, and that knowing your own limits is as valuable as actually making a rescue. Trainees in the Open Water Lifeguard Course are also stretched (mentally and physically) to limits many of them never knew existed. They are encouraged to push themselves, and grow personally and as members of a lifesaving team. Instructors constantly remind the students that the water in their community is their responsibility, and they are encouraged to be (and empower others to be) advocates for water safety and future lifesaving development in their region.

What are the nuts and bolts of the Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course, the actual day-to-day activities that trainees will experience?

ISLA strongly believes in practice-based education, and that doing something is the best way to learn it. The course does includes lectures on various subjects such as Aquatic Conditions and Hazards, Lifeguard Systems, and Specialty Rescues, but a large part of the pedagogy lies in “on the beach” hands on demonstration and training. The course also includes extremely strenuous physical events that involve running and swimming long distances. To see a sample of a Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course Schedule, Click HERE.

Why does ISLA teach and train with and without rescue equipment?

Lifesaving equipment is expensive, and the reality is that in many regions of the world rescue equipment is simply not available. In the ISLA Basic Open Water Course, we teach trainees to realize rescues with equipment such as fins, a buoy, or a paddleboard, and we also teach techniques that can be utilized in a situation where no equipment may be available. Most importantly, we stress the extreme danger present when no equipment is available, and give trainees the tools to discern if they can make the rescue safely. We train those who have equipment to be ready to respond with out it, and we train those with no equipment to properly use it with the hopes that one day safety tools will be available in their area. In ISLA trainings around the world, we have also come to see some impressive improvisations as well. We strongly encourage the trainees to do the best they can with what they have, may it be a surfboard, a 5-liter water bottle, or a canoe paddle.

Why does the ISLA Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course have minimal First Aid and CPR instruction?

First Aid and CPR training is widely available in most regions of the world through local hospitals, clinics, the Red Cross, and in some cases national education curriculums. The ISLA Basic Open Water Lifeguard Course has a very limited time to communicate valuable information, and because First Aid and CPR training is widely available; we spend the majority of our time focusing on the aquatic rescue components of lifeguarding. In addition, First Aid and CPR standards often vary by country and region, and ISLA strongly believes that it is better to teach to local standards in order to better integrate different sections of developing Emergency Medical Systems.

Does ISLA sell or give patches, shirts, shorts from the organization? 

Yes and No; ISLA does sell merchandise on our online store, but not any of our official uniform articles. The good news is that if you participate in an ISLA Project all of your uniform items are provided for you.

How do I start an ISLA humanitarian project in a place in need?

It’s simple! Just visit our Request ISLA Services page and fill out the application.

Are you available for speaking event?

If you are interested in scheduling an ISLA director for a speaking event, contact