Monday, January 9, 2012

Drowning experience turns into community project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  January 09, 2012
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
Dave Benjamin, Executive Director & Public Relations

Drowning experience turns into community project
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project

MATTESON, IL - Matteson man co-creates the “Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project” after his own drowning experience to organize Surf Rescue classes, lead rip current awareness campaigns, and track Great Lakes drownings.

On December 26, 2010, Dave Benjamin was surfing on Lake Michigan in Portage, Indiana when he wiped out and got separated from his board.  The surf was pretty big that day ranging between 6’ to 10’. 

"When I wiped out I was in the impact zone of the waves and the waves kept coming down on me and putting me to the floor," said Benjamin.  "Every time I came up for air, I got put right back down.  The waves were also pushing me toward the jagged rocks of the jetty wall and into a rip current that was pulling me farther out to sea."

"I was panicking, facing shore, vertical in water, mouth at water level, gasping for air, and doing a swimming motioning in the water like I was climbing a ladder.  I had come to terms, written myself off, that this was the day and how I was going to die."

According to Benjamin, the last time he went under water, he remembered that he had read all about this in an article titled, “Drowning doesn’t look like Drowning”, by Mario Vittone.  It described all the ‘Signs of Drowning’ as the “Instinctive Drowning Response”; i.e. panicking, facing shore, vertical in water, mouth at water level, gasping for air, and doing a swimming motioning in the water like climbing a ladder. 

When he realized that he was doing the signs, he quit fighting the water, calmed himself down, and did nothing but float.  It took him about 40 minutes, but eventually he floated back to shore. 

"When I crawled out on the shore, I knew that article saved my life and I decided that I was going to create something to promote water safety, drowning prevention, and rip current awareness."

Four months later while coaching in a leadership program, Benjamin created the "Third Coast Ocean Force" to bring water safety, drowning prevention, and rip current awareness to the shores of the Great Lakes.  While networking with people for the community project, several people said that Benjamin had to speak with Bob Pratt about his similar project, the "Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project".  The two spoke and decided to join forces.

Today the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tracks drowning statistics on the Great Lakes, teaches "Water Safety Surf Rescue" classes on the beach and in the water, and leads the "Third Coast Ocean Force" rip current awareness campaign.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began as a group of Great Lakes surfers dedicated to reducing drowning incidents on the Great Lakes. Surfers have a long history of rescues along its coasts, and are often in the water when conditions are most dangerous: high surf and cold water. This group has expanded to include the general public, professional water rescue team members, dive team members, police officers, and fire fighters.

In 2011, 87 people drowned in the Great Lakes.  In 2010, 74; a two-year total of 161.  Rip currents are responsible for one-third of those drownings.

The “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class is open to the general public, Surfers, and Professional Water Rescue Personnel.

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.

In 2011, Five Surfboard Rescue Techniques Classes were held:
June 5, 2011, St. Joseph, MI
July 17, 2011, Frankfort, MI
July 31, 2011, Grand Haven, MI
August 28, 2011, New Buffalo, MI
September 18, 2011, Whiting, IN

There are currently request for the "Surfboard Rescue Techniques" class to be performed in 14 cities around the Great Lakes (MI: Frankfort, Grand Haven, Holland, St. Joseph, New Buffalo; IN: Michigan City, Portage, Whiting; IL: Chicago; WI: Racine, Milwaukee, Sheboygan; MN: Duluth; Canada: Sherkston)  Calendar details coming soon...

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


MORE INFORMATION about the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is at:

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH – List of Businesses and Organizations is at:

In the News – Overall Media Coverage:

1. The “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class;
2. The “Third Coast Ocean Force” Rip Current Awareness PSA Campaign.

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