Saturday, July 9, 2011

Great Lakes - 2011 Drowning Pace Surpasses 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                              July 6, 2011

Dave Benjamin                                               Bob Pratt - Surfboard Rescue Techniques Instructor
Surfboard Rescue Class Organizer                  Fire Marshal & Water Rescue Expert
708-903-0166                                               East Lansing, MI                                  517-256-4600

2011’s Drowning Pace Surpasses 2010
Water Safety is a Must!
Flip, Float, and Follow in a Rip & Know the Myths and Signs of Drowning

THE GREAT LAKES – According to statistics gathered by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, in 2010 approximately 74 people drowned in the Great Lakes.  Of those 74 deaths, 22 had occurred by July 4, 2010. 

On Sunday, July 3, a five year old drowned at Covert Township Park, Covert, MI increasing the 2011 drowning’s to 23.  [Drowning stats attached] (Headline: 5-year-old south suburban Chicago boy drowns at Covert Township Park

“Keep your children at arm’s length when in and around the water,” said Bob Pratt, founder Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and a fire marshal in East Lansing, MI. “It’s important to always supervise your children around any water activities.”

Could 2011 drowning’s exceed 2010?  According to some Great Lakes surfers, the 4th of July is seen as the turning point of the summer where cooler winds over the lakes warmer waters can increase the frequency for wave conditions.

“It has always been the belief around this part of West Michigan that we usually get good waves within a few days either side of the fourth,” said Greystoke on the Third Coast Surf Shop’s online forum.  “It really has worked out for the years I have kept a log of sessions.” (

On July 1, Holland and Muskegon surfers reported “waist- to chest-high glass” with “clean lines” as the wind turned offshore.

“In two thousand ten, whenever there was surf to chase, there was drowning’s to read about in the papers,” said Dave Benjamin, Third Coast Ocean Force rip current awareness community project organizer.  “Wherever there are waves, there are rip currents that increase the chance of drowning.  It’s important to know what to do if you are ever caught in a rip current.”

On page 7 of the Michigan Sea Grant's "Upwelling" magazine (, a new campaign to help people remember how to escape rip currents was recently launched. Flip, Float, Follow are the three actions rip current specialist would like you to keep in mind (like stop, drop, and roll).

  1. Flip over on your back;
  2. Float instead of fighting the current; and
  3. Follow the current until it weakens enough that you can swim out of it.
It’s also important to know the “Myths” and “Signs of Drowning”:

  1. A drowning person will wave for help. When a person is drowning, they can’t swim to lift up their hand and wave.
  2. A drowning person will call out for help. Speech is a secondary function of the respiratory system. When the primary function – breathing – is not being satisfied, the secondary function cannot occur.

The Signs of Drowning:
  • The person is facing shore
  • Head back and mouth open
  • Vertical in water
  • Barely breaking the surface with arms
  • Making no forward movement
  • Hair in face
  • Look of panic
  • Ladder Climb movements – rarely out of the water
Published: June 16th, 2010 by Mario Vittone, “Drowning doesn’t look like drowning”

Created by Bob Pratt, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is made up of Great Lakes surfers dedicated to reducing drowning incidents on the Great Lakes. Its “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class is completing its pilot stage this summer with several classes throughout Michigan.  Surfers have a long history of rescues along our coasts.  As surfers we are often in the water when conditions are most dangerous: high surf and cold water. By educating surfers to the dangers of RIP currents and hypothermia we can reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims but more importantly, by educating them to use their surfboard as a rescue tool, more lives can be saved.!/pages/Great-Lakes-Surf-Rescue-Project/120501018657?sk=info

The “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class will teach surfers and professional water rescue personnel to:
·                     Recognizing the danger of the surf environment and keeping personal safety as THE primary responsibility
·                     Understanding how, where, and why rip currents occur
·                     Identify a person in trouble from within a crowd
·                     Identify hazardous conditions
·                     Summon help
·                     Use a surfboard or boogie board to rescue a person in distress or in a rip current
·                     Rescue a swimmer in distress or in a rip current around a jetty or pier
·                     How to react when encountering swimmers who have suffered an injury
·                     How to react to an unconscious victim
·                     Encouraging surfers to enroll in lifesaving, first aid and CPR training from accredited agencies.

Because the Great Lakes are referred to as the “Third Coast” of the United States and the “Third Coast” can have “Ocean Force” rip currents during windy weather conditions – the Third Coast Ocean Force community project was created to:
  • Support the existence of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s efforts to educate surfers and other water rescue personnel to use surfboards as lifesaving devices;
  • Encourage lake surfers to obtain CPR Certificates and Life Guard Certificates;
  • Publicize instances where lake surfers or water rescue personnel rescued swimmers from rip currents/drowning;
  • Support a summer-long rip current awareness public relations campaign.

  • The Betsie Bay Inn, Lesley Perkins, Owner
231 Main Street, Frankfort, Michigan 49635

  • Beach Nut Surf Shop, Larry Bordine, Owner
1100 Main St., Frankfort, MI 49635

  • Third Coast Surf Shop, Ryan Gerard, Owner
St. Joseph and New Buffalo, MI

  • No Quarter Surf Boards, Marty Karish, Owner
Grand Haven, MI

  • The Great Lakes Surfing Association
Grand Haven, MI

  • Additional partners and sponsors coming soon…

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