Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Surfing Association partners with Surf Rescue Class

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  August 3, 2011

Dave Benjamin, Class Organizer
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project

Great Lakes Surfing Association
Partners with the "Surfboard Rescue Techniques" class
Sun., Aug. 7, 9:30 a.m. EST

GRAND HAVEN, MI – The Great Lakes Surfing Association is excited to announce that it will be partnering with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project for its "Surfboard Rescue Techniques" class and "Third Coast Ocean Force" rip current awareness PSA campaign Sunday, August 7, 9:30 a.m. at the Grand Haven State Park Pavilion.

“The Great Lakes drowning situation continues to reach a crisis point,” said Bob Beaton, president Great Lakes Surfing Association.  “Over the years we have had many life threatening incidents even on small-wave days.  Once the August winds pick up, we may really have our hands full out there.”

According to Beaton, water safety activist need to continue to develop lifesaving methods with the number one priority – getting flotation devices to the victims because it takes less than one minute for a swimmer in distress to become fully submerged and a pier wash-off victim seven minutes to survive without a flotation device.

 “The surfboard is a fabulously effective rescue device, especially when getting in close to that pier on rough days,” added Beaton.

“A surfboard:
-- Can get in close to retrieve a victim next to a pier where a rescue craft cannot. 
-- Has a much smaller profile in the water and is less affected by waves than a boat or jet ski. 
-- Is perfectly designed to go over, around, and under waves. 
-- Is easy to carry and launch off of piers and beaches
-- Is very easy to retrieve by the safety leash, and it is much easier to manhandle a victim back onto the board If caught in the wave impact zone.”

The “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class will teach participants how to recognize the danger of the surf environment; understand rip currents (i.e. how, where, and why rip currents occur); how to survive rips; to know the “Signs of Drowning”; and how to use a surfboard or other flotation device to rescue a person in distress or in a rip current.

And Beaton is no stranger to extreme water rescues.

“I didn’t get into surf rescue.  It happened to me the same time the ship, Edmund Fitzgerald, was going down in Lake Superior [November 10, 1975],” said Beaton.  “We had surfed all day and while we were driving home figured Grand Haven was still hitting.  The air temp was 54 degrees with 50 mile per hour winds.”
When Beaton arrived that day, three boys were washed off the pier.  Beaton and two local surfers (Steve White and Bearle Eastling) were able to get to the two surviving boys in less than a minute and keep them on their boards in 14 ft. waves and treacherous rip currents for an hour-and-a-half.  Official rescue personnel were unable to help and could only stand by and watch as the surfers fought the giant lake waves to keep the boys alive.  The Coast Guard rescue craft could not overcome the mountainous waves in the channel and had to turn back.  Finally, the surfers tried to get the boys in through the break, successfully rescuing one.  The other boy was lost when the leash to the board he was being rescued on was snapped by a large wave.

Beaton and the two other surfers received a Congressional Medal from the Admiral of the U. S. Coast Guard.

According to Beaton, most rescues by lake surfers happen very quickly and generally go unnoticed, undocumented and are remembered only by those who were directly involved.

“Surf rescues can be very dangerous.  When in doubt don’t go out.” Beaton concluded.


The Great Lakes Surfing Association was founded in 1964 to promote surfing camaraderie on the Great Lakes, with the goals to record and present the history of Great Lakes surfing and bring surfers to the forefront of the beach & pier safety issue.  Grand Haven, MI - www.sandhillcity.com/glsa.htm

In 2010 approximately 74 people drowned in the Great Lakes primarily due to rip currents.  The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is made up of Great Lakes surfers dedicated to reducing drowning incidents on the Great Lakes. Surfers have a long history of rescues along our coasts.  Surfers are often in the water when conditions are most dangerous: high surf and cold water. 

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project consists of two elements:
1. The “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class;
2. The “Third Coast Ocean Force” Rip Current Awareness PSA Campaign.

The “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class is currently FREE and OPEN to the public – Friends, Family, Employees, Employers, Surfers, SUP’ers, Kayakers, Professional Water Rescue Personnel, Social Groups of People, etc.
The “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class will teach participants how to:
--Recognize the danger of the surf environment keeping personal safety as THE primary responsibility – Identifying hazardous conditions
--Understand rip currents; i.e. how, where, and why rip currents occur; How to survive rips;
--Know the “Signs of Drowning” – How to identify a person in trouble from within a crowd.
--Summon help
--Use a surfboard or other flotation device to rescue a person in distress or in a rip current
--React when encountering swimmers who have suffered an injury
--React to an unconscious victim
--Enroll in lifesaving, first aid and CPR training from accredited agencies.

The Great Lakes are sometimes referred to as the “Third Coast” of the United States and the “Third Coast” can have "Ocean Force" rip currents during windy weather conditions.  Each Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class will provide an opportunity to cause rip current awareness through the classroom as well as media opportunities.

  • Surfrider Foundation, Vince Deur & Ingrid Lindfors
Grand Haven, MI

  • Wet Mitten Surf Shop, Ben & John McNeil
301 N Harbor, Grand Haven, MI 49417
(616) 844-3388

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

  • Great Lakes Proud, Austin

  • The Great Lakes Surfing Association, Bob Beaton
Grand Haven, MI

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

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

  • Additional partners and sponsors coming soon…

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