Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grand Haven Surf Rescue Class

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  January 6, 2011
Bob Pratt, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 517-256-4600
Ben McNeil, Wet Mitten Surf Shop, 616-844-3388
Vince Deur, Surfrider Foundation, 616-516-2701
Marty Karish, No Quarter Surfboards, 616-502-9784
Austin Holsinger, Great Lakes Proud, 260-624-5480
Will Beaton, Surf Grand, 616 402-2185
Bob Beaton, Great Lakes Surfing Association,  231-865-6118

Dave Benjamin, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Media Relations, 708-903-0166

Grand Haven Surf Rescue Class

Representing the Great Lakes at San Diego Symposium

And “Lifesaver of the Year” Award finalist

GRAND HAVEN, MI – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s "Surfboard Rescue Techniques" class hosted August 7 in Grand Haven by several local businesses will be presenting its class at the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s 11th Annual Symposium, March 7 – 10, 2012 in San Diego, California. The Surf Rescue Project is also a finalist for the NDPA’s “Lifesaver of the Year” Award.

“Presenting allows us to bring the issues unique to the Great Lakes to a national forum,” said Bob Pratt, Surf Rescue Class Instructor.  “Our rip currents are different; they are caused by short fetch windswells, and our piers are solid structures that exacerbate the rip current problem.”

The Great Lakes have a short swimming season (typically three months), yet has a high number of drownings each year (87 in 2011; 74 in 2010; a two-year total of 161).

“Addressing these challenges at the symposium may result in greater interest by researchers and may also result in expanded funding,” Pratt added.  “The ultimate goal is and will always be the prevention of drowning by increased education and a culture of respect for the power of the Lakes.”

“We will showcase the broad range of efforts taking place in the Great Lakes region. While the region may be struggling economically, volunteer and non-profit groups have stepped in to fill voids caused by a lack of lifeguards and cuts to public safety and education.”

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project believes its class can serve as a national model bringing diverse groups of people together (the general public, surfers, law enforcement, and water rescue professionals) with the common goal of saving lives. 

The class teaches 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.

The first “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class for 2012 is slated for Chicago the weekend of June 2-3 in coordination with National Rip Current Awareness week.

Bob Pratt and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project have made the "Top 10 Finalist" list for the National Drowning Prevention Alliance's "Lifesaver of the Year" Award.  Voting for the winner will be on FaceBook Jan. 4 to 31, 2012.  Click on the link below now to read the Lifesaver nomination and then click on the "Thumbs Up" image if you would like to cast your VOTE to support saving lives on the Great Lakes!  [NOTE: You can vote once every day until the 31st.]


Wet Mitten Surf Shop
“Drownings in the Great Lakes are an unfortunate reality that may never be completely eradicated,” said Ben McNeil, Wet Mitten Surf Shop co-owner. “The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s class presents a very creative and practical solution to bring down the number of drownings.  I’ve been in rip currents numerous times in different bodies of water,” added McNeil. “Being caught in a rip current is a scary experience that can be deadly if you don't know how to respond.  From a very early age, I learned to respect the power of the water.”

Surfrider Foundation, Lake Michigan Chapter
“I know surfers make a difference in saving lives, and we can always learn more,” said Vince Deur, Surfrider Foundation Lake Michigan Chapter co-founder. “Every beach day when we have waves, my heart flutters because I feel like somebody is going to get into trouble.”

No Quarter Surfboards
“I have no problems helping someone out!” said Marty Karish, No Quarter Surfboards owner.  “I used to keep count of surf rescues, but it became too many.  It’s the norm... just something we lake surfers do.”  Karish has been swimming the lakes as long as he can remember and surfing them for almost 25 years.  “Actions speak louder than words, and the action of partnering with the surf rescue class gets the word out about Great Lakes water safety and rip current awareness,” Karish added.

Great Lakes Proud
“I cannot remember a summer where the Great Lakes did not play a vital role in my thrill seeking and fun,” said Austin Holsinger, Great Lakes Proud founder. “This surf rescue class is a great opportunity for people who share a similar love for the Great Lakes and the importance of being prepared and ready.  I have traveled throughout the world yet never experienced anything quite as extraordinary as what surrounds us here in the Midwest,” Holsinger added.  “I am proud of Michigan and the entire Great Lakes region.”

Surf Grand
“Rip current drownings are a preventable tragedy that needs to be addressed,” said Will Beaton, Surf Grand Haven owner. “Rip currents are a problem especially when there are inexperienced swimmers in the water.  Surfers use rips whenever surfing along piers to get out past the breaks, and surfers are great first responders that may already be in the water before help can arrive,” Beaton added. 

Great Lakes Surfing Association
“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.” 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.

“It was a tragic year on the Great Lakes,” said Bob Pratt, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project CEO.  “Eighty-seven lives lost are unacceptable.  In two-thousand-twelve we will be working hard to reduce these numbers through our water safety and surf rescue classes,” Pratt added.  “Knowledge is power, and we’re leading a huge education effort across the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project hosted five “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” classes last summer in Michigan and Indiana.  There are currently 14 classes slated for summer 2012.  The first “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” class for 2012 is slated for Chicago the weekend of June 2-3 in coordination with National Rip Current Awareness week.  (details coming soon).


The National Drowning Prevention Alliance is a volunteer-driven 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization founded in 2004. NDPA members are dedicated to preventing drowning for all age groups in all bodies of water through public education, advocacy and strategic partnerships. The public is invited to join by visiting    

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:

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