The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is not primarily about helping surfers in trouble – though the group recently elicited the help of one of the world’s pioneers in the field of surf rescue.
The mission of the project is to convince municipalities to have better safety measures in place at Great Lakes beaches, and also to make water safety training mandatory for children growing up in the region.
"Drowning in the United States kills more children than fire, lightning, tornadoes and school shooters combined - and yet we put a great deal of effort and time into educating our young people about these dangers. It's time that we step up and start educating people about the dangers of the Great Lakes," says GLSRP education director Bob Pratt.
Since 2010, GLSRP has tracked 384 Great Lakes drownings. The majority of them happened in Lake Michigan.
"The elements of water is not our natural environment, so things happen pretty quickly. When we go into the water, or somebody that's less experienced, all they see is the beauty. They don't see the beast hidden within that beauty," says Archie Kalepa, retired ocean safety operations chief for Maui County and a legendary big wave surfer.
GLSRP advocates for water safety education for all people living in areas close to large bodies of water, with an emphasis on the Great Lakes.