ISLA Conducts its First European Lifeguard Exchange and Training Course

ISLA certified Macedonian Rescuer in Lake Mladost.

Founded in October 2010, Macedonian Rescuer is an effort based out of Eastern Europe to organize an effective lifesaving force for the community and surrounding waterways of Veles, Macedonia. With an increase in tourism, and city and regional planning to develop large scale tourism operations in the near future, Macedonian Rescuer is one of the forefront organizations for ensuring safety for the tourist and community members within the region; and will continue to be so in the coming future of Macedonia.

Nearly a year and a half ago, the Macedonian Rescuer reached out to ISLA sharing their objectives as an organization, and asking for assistance in supplying them with critical lifesaving equipment as well as lifeguard training and certification. Our team immediately recognized their passion, hard-work, commitment as well as their potential for growth in the region and knew this would be a great project to commence ISLA operations in Europe.

To conduct the training, ISLA pulled from its vast network of volunteers and put together a team of some of the best lifeguards and instructors across the United States, including Jacksonville Beach, Florida Lieutenant/Lifeguard Taylor Anderson (who also works with Lifeguards without Borders), San Diego lifeguard Drasko Bagdonovich, ISLA lifeguard Olin Patterson, as well as ISLA lifeguard and Huntington Beach lifeguard and instructor Henry Reyes.

ISLA and Lifeguards without Borders Instructor Taylor in the lecture room.

ISLA instructors Henry and Drasko teaching proper buoy coordination.

For critical lifesaving supplies, Macedonian Rescuer put together a list of needs that ISLA sponsors, fundraisers and volunteers fulfilled. In total over $5000 worth of critical lifesaving equipment was donated including lifeguard buoys, lifeguard uniforms, storm whistles, sunscreen, back-boards, cervical collar supplies, medical supplies, polarized sun glasses, CPR masks, and harnesses all thanks to ISLA sponsors including Hurley, American Red Cross Florida, California State Parks, San Diego, Image Sunwear, C4 Waterman, Inc., Lifeguards without Borders, Huntington Beach City lifeguards/junior lifeguards, and the ISLA general fund.

lifesaving equipment being donated at the final ceremony.

The lifeguard exchange and training courses went off went resounding success. ISLA lifeguards participating in the exchange flew into Greece, where as a side excursion, were able to meet, greet and spend a day and half with the Greek lifeguard training school called Lifeguard Hellas Training Center in Athens, Greece. During that time ISLA guards participated in a triathlon in Marathon, Greece (the birthplace of the Marathon), as well as spent the day with the Greeks learning, sharing techniques and touring the school’s facilities before heading up north to Macedonia.

In Macedonia, ISLA lifeguards were met with more incredible hospitality from the people of Macedonia and the members of Macedonian Rescuer, where they were put up in a nearby school for the duration of the 11 day stay. For the next several days, the ISLA guards toured the region with the Macedonian Rescuers as well as getting to look first hand at their existing lifeguard operations.

After tours of the region, country and lifeguard operations, the training was finally commenced. The training took place at nearby Lake Mladost (just a few miles north of the city of Veles and a popular tourist destination for the region) and within the local resort where a lecture hall was provided just a few steps from the beach.

For the training, the Macedonian Rescuers were put through the 30 hour Basic Lakes and Rivers Training of ISLA, that serves as an international standard and foundational lifeguard certificate. To learn more about this training click here. Each day was marked with ten hours of intensive training that challenged the course participants mentally, physically and enabled them to be hands on with the newly donated equipment.

Of the 21 course participants, 17 passed the course as ISLA certified lifeguards and were given certificates and a patch to accompany their new uniforms. ISLA was also pleased to certify the second female ever with an ISLA certificate and hopes to certify many more in the near future!

On the fourth day of the course, a ceremony was held to officiate the newly certified guards as well as to donate the critical lifesaving supplies to the people and members of Macedonian Rescuer. For the next few days, ISLA members got the chance to spend more time with the Macedonians before heading out of the country.

The success of this trip marked an enormous milestone for ISLA and its success in Europe, as well as with the Macedonian Rescuer. Since the trips completion last month, the Macedonian Rescuer has had enormous success in their continued growth, as well as implementing the first permanent tower in Lake Mladost, and with keeping tourist and lake patrons safe in the area.

At ISLA, we know this trip marked just the beginning of a long relationship with the people of Macedonia and the members of Macedonian Rescuer, as well as with continued success in conducting lifeguard training courses and exchanges in Europe. ISLA plans to continue future trips to the region to assist and train more lifeguards in the coming years.

Lastly, ISLA would like to thank again the incredible sponsors of this event including Image Sunwear, Hurley, C4 Waterman, Inc. and Lifeguards without Borders, of which these efforts would not have been possible!

To view more photographs of the training visit ISLA’s Facebook page of click the links below:
Day 1 Training Course
Day 2 Training Course
Day 3 Training Course
Day 4 Awards ceremony day

For more information on the ISLA certificate and about future trips, visit the ISLA website.