Featured Volunteer: Patty Lanham

Get to know our ISLA volunteer, Patty Lanham! She joined ISLA for our project in Bahia Asuncion this October. Read more about her and her experience as an international lifeguard!

Patty Lanham
I am a seasonal beach lifeguard 1 for the City of San Diego. I have an associate degree in Administration of Justice with a Law Enforcement specialization. I’m THIS close to finishing an associate degree in Open Water Lifeguarding at Miramar College. I am interested in everything! Mostly people and what makes them tick. I garden, I read. I take classes at the community college. I dance. I run at a very comfortable pace.

What are your goals in life?
I want to be happy. I want to help people. I want to be surrounded by good friends and to let the rest of it go.

What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are reading, surfing, swimming, roller skating, running, people watching, dancing, and I just started learning how to sew. I love a good vampire or werewolf book. I am totally addicted to romance novels. The kind you can pick up in the grocery store or airport. I’ve read so many of them it’s embarrassing.

What is your favorite beach in the world?
My favorite beaches are Newport Beach, Blacks, and South Mission. I’ve lifeguarded for five years for the City of San Diego. Pacific Beach, South Mission, Mission.

When did you start lifeguarding?
I started lifeguarding in 2010. I’ve been a swimmer my whole life and I always felt like it was something I should’ve done. So I did it! I am a lifeguard because I like my work to be meaningful. I love the silly things that happen. I love my coworkers. But it’s that moment when I really get to help someone that I live for. And I’m happiest in a job that is physical. I have a lot of energy. It’s pretty awesome being able to go in and out of the ocean all day too. Mostly I lifeguard because it’s good fun.

How did you first get started with ISLA?
The day before the application was due for Baja a lifeguard friend told me to apply. He’d gone on the trip the year before and said it was the greatest thing and I should do it. He was right. Thanks Mike!

What interested you most about ISLA?
I checked out ISLA’s website and it seemed to have a good mission. Drowning is so preventable and there are so many people worldwide who don’t know how to swim in the ocean. When you think about the last person you pulled out of the water and how many lives they touch…What am I talking about? Lifeguarding is FUN. And a chance to do something I love somewhere else with some other neat people? Yes, please!

Patty Lanham

What ISLA trip did you go on?
I went with ISLA to Bahia Asuncion, Mexico. Our junior lifeguarding got interrupted by a hurricane passing through. It was an adventure driving down there with a bunch of lifeguards. I want to go back. I worked with the youngest kids which was new for me. I’ve been a junior guard instructor before for a couple of summers but I worked with middle school aged kids. So I was a bit out of my element along with having a limited Spanish vocabulary. But with the little kids it was more activity based anyways. We did a couple in and out relays. We played beach flags. We gave beginning surf lessons. At first the kids were a bit shy. By the end of the day we were all holding hands in the surf getting smashed by waves. It was good fun.

I helped out at a CPR class where I showed the women and girls how find each other’s pulses. When the town officials shut the beach down due to weather we met with some of the kids to play. Some of us threw a football around while the rest were playing soccer or kickball.

On the last day we all participated in a mass rescue for the oldest kids. I put myself in deep water and when my rescuer came up close I was under water. He pulled me up and got me on the board. So I fell off and had to be rescued again. Then once I was brought in to shallow water with a couple other victims I collapsed and had to be carried out and they were all ready to begin CPR. They did great job improvising and working together to bring us all in.

Favorite thing about the ISLA project you were on?
I don’t think I can pick one favorite thing about the ISLA project I was on. I made so many cool new friends. I caught some awesome waves. I swam with WHALESHARKS. I don’t know how I’m ever going to beat that.

What have you learned from this trip?
I need to bring a mosquito net next year. Mosquitos LOVE deet. Always bring a spare key for your car when you drive down in Baja.

What inspired you on the trip?
The community in Bahia Asuncion inspired me. These people are close! It’s not like San Diego where I can go out in the day and not run into a single person I know. Everyone knows each other there and they are all friends. Our host, Jean, is pretty inspiring. She and her friends did so much to take care of us lifeguards while we were there. She’s pretty rad.

Is there anything that took you by surprise?
The beauty of Mexico took me by surprise. It’s just breathtaking.

What is the best beach food?
The best beach food for me is a bacon breakfast sandwich on a croissant with some coffee from Marina Village. For lunch I’ll take a sandwich from Dana Landing.

Patty Lanham

What is your favorite thing about lifeguarding?
I don’t know if I can pick one favorite thing about lifeguarding. There are so many. Awesome coworkers, waves, rip currents, people watching, rescues, sand, saltwater, sunburns, pranks, getting to wear flip flops to work…

What is your favorite piece of rescue equipment?
My favorite piece of rescue equipment is the old Surftech rescue board. You know the one I’m talking about. Rumor is they’re bringing them back. Can it be true? Please? Why? Because it works!

How will you continue to prevent drowning?
My plan for preventing drowning is to keep doing what I’m doing. Show up ready to work and help out. When I’m at the beach on my day off I’m still watching out for others. I’ll talk to anyone who wants to listen about conditions and how to stay calm and either get out of a rip current or stay afloat long enough to get some help. I’m always willing to help someone learn how to swim. I wish that swimming was a regular part of public education.

Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, Adventurous, Curious

What do you want to share with our readers?
Get yourself on one of these trips!

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? Get Involved Now!

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