Guardavidas + Conservation = A Stronger, Safer Coast

On February 25th, the Costa Ballena Guardavidas hosted a unique fundraising event blending the protection of human life with that of ocean conservation. 

“An Evening with Andy Mann,” held at the home of Bruce Baird in Dominicalito, benefited and honored the heroic work of the lifeguards who serve and protect the local community and prevent ocean accidents on the beaches in the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

The evening was highlighted by Emmy award nominated photographer, director and ocean conservationist Andy Mann, who brought his stories from the front lines of ocean conservation around the world. Having just returned from an assignment on Cocos Island, Andy was able to give a unique look into the specific challenges Costa Rica faces in their conservation efforts.

Andy Mann was joined by Marta Cambra, coordinator and research assistant from the Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Linmology (CIMAR) of the University of Costa Rica. She presented work that is being done through the “Vida Secreta de los Tiburones” project, which strives to strengthen the management and conservation efforts for sharks and rays on Caño Island and other marine protected areas of Costa Rica. 

Food and drinks were generously donated by local businesses Fuego Brewing Company, Mosaic Wine Bar & Café, Pizza Time, Villas Leanor, Restaurante Mamma e Papa, La Cusinga Lodge, Mama Toucans, and Sibu Café. Seating was provided by Villas Rio Mar and live original music was provided by singer-songwriter Noah Solt. 

The event raised critical funds for the Costa Ballena Guardavidas, a non-profit association fully sponsored by local businesses and individuals. “These funds will be directed toward salaries and critical equipment necessary for the guardavidas to perform their life-saving jobs,” said Greg Gordon, President of the Board for the Costa Ballena Guardavidas. The lifeguards are open water rescue certified, CPR and Wilderness First Aid certified individuals. Every year dozens of lives are saved by these highly trained and dedicated professionals.

Lifeguard Fundraiser – An Evening with Andy Mann

The Asociacion de Guardavidas de Zona Sur would like to invite you to attend An Evening with Andy Mann on Thursday, February 25th, 4:30 p.m. at Casa Olas in Dominicalito. This special evening will include a presentation by Andy of his world famous nature photography.

Andy Mann is an Emmy-nominated Director, 3 time Telly-Award Winner, National Geographic Photographer & marine conservationist whose imagery is helping tell the story of our rapidly changing planet. Often best known for his shark work, Andy has worked tirelessly with the critically endangered oceanic whitetip shark, creating Google Expedition’s first shark-tagging 360 VR classroom lesson plan and is working closely with NOAA on the recovery plan for the species.

The evening will include finger food donated by Pizza Time in Uvita, La Cusinga Lodge, Mamma e Papa in Ojochal, and beer and wine donated by Fuego Brewery and Mosaic Wines. A donation of $100 per person is asked for to attend the event. There will be Covid-19 protocols in place and the event will be limited to the first 30 guests who RSVP and confirm their seats. The invitation to attend and RSVP is here – https://www.paperlesspost.com/p/9187c9a050

100% of the funds raised will go to help the lifeguards that protect the beaches of Playa Hermosa and Dominical. The association needs the help of the Costa Ballena community and this is one great way to support them while hearing stories from an expert in ocean conservation who has spent the last two months filming off of the Galapagos and Isla de Coco.

If you cannot attend but still would like to support our mission, please use this link to make a donation (tax deductible in the U.S. to the extent allowed by law) – https://www.classy.org/give/258087/

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La Asociación de Guardvidas de Zona Zur desea invitarlo a asistir a An Evening with Andy Mann el jueves 25 de febrero a las 4:30 p.m. en Casa Olas en Dominicalito. Esta noche especial incluirá una presentación de Andy de su famosa fotografía de la naturaleza.

Andy Mann es un director nominado al Emmy, tres veces ganador del premio Telly, fotógrafo de National Geographic y conservacionista marino cuyas imágenes están ayudando a contar la historia de nuestro planeta que cambia rápidamente. A menudo mejor conocido por su trabajo con tiburones, Andy ha trabajado incansablemente con el tiburón oceánico de punta blanca en peligro crítico de extinción, creando el primer plan de clase de 360 ​​VR para etiquetado de tiburones de Google Expedition y está trabajando en estrecha colaboración con NOAA en el plan de recuperación de la especie.

La noche incluirá bocadillos donados por Pizza Time en Uvita, La Cusinga Lodge, Mamma e Papa in Ojochal, y cerveza y vino donados por Fuego Brewery y Mosaic Wines. Se solicita una donación de $ 100 por persona para asistir al evento. Habrá protocolos Covid-19 y el evento se limitará a los primeros 30 invitados que confirmen su asistencia y confirmen sus asientos. La invitación para asistir y confirmar su asistencia está aquí: https://www.paperlesspost.com/p/9187c9a050

El 100% de los fondos recaudados se destinará a ayudar a los socorristas que protegen las playas de Playa Hermosa y Dominical. La asociación necesita la ayuda de la comunidad de Costa Ballena y esta es una excelente manera de apoyarlos mientras escuchan historias de un experto en conservación del océano que ha pasado los últimos dos meses filmando en Galápagos e Isla de Coco.

Si no puede asistir pero desea apoyar nuestra misión, utilice este enlace para hacer una donación (deducible de impuestos en los EE. UU. En la medida en que lo permita la ley): https://www.classy.org/give/258087/

Beaches to Get Handicapped Access Ramps

We have been working in Osa, with the Municipality and community organizations, to bring more Universal Accessibility options to our area. It has already been achieved that the Costa Rican Accessible Tourism Network donates to the Municipality 2 plastic walkways for the beaches of Osa. The Municipality wants to put one in Playa Hermosa and the other in Dominical. In addition, the Municipality will donate 2 amphibious chairs, to put one on each beach.

The walkways are made of 1.2 meter wide roll-up plastic wood, a ramp that will allow people with disabilities to get into the sea. They are built from reused plastic such as bottles, caps, etc. Contributing to the environment, transforming plastic into accessible tourism.

The Municipality wants to sign an agreement with the Costa Ballena Lifeguard Association, where they put the walkways and amphibious chairs at our disposal, turning Playa Hermosa and Playa Dominical into Universal Accessibility beaches. And we must take care of them and be responsible for them.

Commitments of the Lifeguard Association:

1- Extend the roll-up plastic wood ramp daily 

2- Be available the moment a user arrives to accompany them when using the ramp and chair (We can use volunteers to offer this service during the peak seasons, so that the lifeguards can concentrate on their work) 

3- Protect the goods in the containers (The Municipality would be in charge of making the repairs that are needed to improve security) 

4- Create a volunteer system, so as not to overload the official tower lifeguards with this service, because the priority they have is to be vigilant, with all their attention in the water, they cannot have external distractors) WE NEED TO URGENTLY CREATE THIS VOLUNTEERS SYSTEM 

5- The term of this contract with the Municipality will be for the period that Our contractual relationship with the Municipality lasts. In any case, we can finalize the contract before, in case the performance of the regular functions of the lifeguards get to complicate.

Lifeguard Interview 2005

The early days of the lifeguard group in Dominical

It all started in December of 1995, when Roy González met Paulo Tubito and they started talking about the fact that in Dominical so many people were drowning and something had to be done about it. At that point in time, when a water emergency occurred, surfers or fishermen, like the Amancio family, rushed to the aid of swimmers in trouble. I was sitting on the beach checking out the waves just like any other day when a friend of mine from California named Roy González walked up. We commented on the latest incident, in which someone drowned the previous afternoon. For us, the idea of people constantly drowning at Dominical Beach was nothing out of this world. In fact, saving one, two, three, or even groups of people was normal for the family of surfers that lived in Dominical. But for some reason, this conversation motivated us and served as an incentive for us to act. Roy and I immediately spearheaded the project, first starting with local business owners and asking for support. We approached Mike McGinnis, of San Clemente and contacted a lifeguard from New Jersey (Matt Haley), who would later come for the new year to take charge of training volunteers and giving us a hand. I say give us a hand because my job was to propose and convince surfers, my friends, and brothers to volunteer as lifeguards during the high tourist season in Dominical. It was this way that guys like Ronnie, Jose(Gato), Alan, Vinicio (Cherepo), Alvaro, Junior, los hermanos Erik y Kirk, and other loyal friends and surfers, decided to volunteer to save lives.

It has been 10 years since Mr. Roy Gonzales, who we all know, had the idea of starting the lifeguards of Dominical, but in the early days, there was not much support in the community. Roy, who is an artist (painter) and lifeguard, started training Mateo when so many people started drowning. In this way, they began to organize and created what is now the organization of lifeguards: (Dominical Lifeguards, S.A.), which was created in 1995 by Vanessa. Over the course of those early years, there were people who got involved trying to bring a lifeguard service to the area. The very first lifeguards were: Mateo, Vinicio, Junior, Paolo, Manfred, Ronny, Esteban (Pechuga). They were trained as professionals by the Association of lifeguards of Costa Rica and INA, (National Institute of Learning), and taking classes such as first aid and CPR. The first lifeguards had no salary, but worked as volunteers to help their community. The current group of men that now work as lifeguards includes: Mateo, Vinicio, Alavaro, and Nacho, who recently joined them. They are now paid, have insurance, and comprise a good team.

Here are some of the thoughts of the lifeguards, expressed in their own words, what it is for them to be or to have been a lifeguard:

Vinicio: It is an honor. It’s not just anyone who does this job. Six years of being a lifeguard means a lot, it requires a lot of dedication, respect, and love.

Alvaro: It feels good when you save a life. It’s a beautiful experience. It’s also a job in which you must be alert. It’s not a job for just anyone.

Gato: It’s a good feeling to help people, feel the adrenaline, have to focus on what you’re doing. When you save someone, it’s an intense situation. I stopped being a lifeguard because I had to represent Dominical in the surfing tournaments.

Paolo: I was a lifeguard from December 1995 until November 2001. It was a beautiful experience for me. I always try to help them from here (USA). I work for a company of ambulances, so I help with equipment donations. Although I’m not in Dominical, my heart still is, and I am always in communication with them.

Ronny: Anyone could be a lifeguard, but must have a lot of aquatic knowledge, be a man of the water, like an angel of the guard.

Junior: A very beautiful experience. I was left with the satisfaction of saving lives. The people appreciate the efforts one makes.

Nacho: I joined this team a year and a half ago. I love the experience of helping and what I’ve learned. I appreciate all the support I’ve been offered.

Alvaro: In these 4 years it’s been a beautiful experience. It feels good to make a rescue. There are a lot of people that don’t pay attention to the lifeguards. I ask them to pay attention when we’re working since the only thing that matters to us is them. We recommend that before you go to the beach you inform yourselves on the precautions you should take. There’s a lot of information on the beach and at our towers.

One of the experiences of Mono Gato I’d like to share with you, from a time before the lifeguards, happened when he participated in a rescue. He tells the story in his own words: Two people were drowning at the beach. At that time, the lifeguards didn’t exist. I went running until I got to where they were and found a girl. I calmed her, then dove, and was swept back. Then I returned to her and in that moment a wave came and I yelled, “dive!”, because the wave was going to fall on top of her. A few minutes passed and I couldn’t see her. I dove again and she wasn’t there, but then I saw a hand. She was super exhausted, and I pulled her. She was unconscious and purple. In the end, two people were saved. Because of that they recommend that if you don’t have adequate training, don’t try to be heroes. Her husband almost drowned trying to save her.

Thanks to all of them for their unconditional strength and much appreciation for those that contributes their grain of sand to make this possible. Special thanks to Paolo Tubito for all the information.

2020 Donation Letter

16-December-2020

Thanks for your interest in supporting the Costa Ballena Lifeguards!

Founded in 2014 as a private organization, the Costa Ballena Lifeguards began operations on Playa Hermosa and soon after, Dominical. Back then there was no national policy for lifeguard funding in Costa Rica, so the association depended entirely on donations from the community. Since then a lot has changed. We successfully partnered with the National Coast Guard to develop and deliver a certification program, incorporated as a legal non-profit association and became the model for government-contracted lifeguard services in the country – all the while saving hundreds of lives and preventing thousands of incidents. 

With the strong support of the US Embassy and our contacts at the National Tourism Board, in April 2019 we had a major breakthrough and signed a recurring, one-year contract with the Municipality of Osa for lifeguard services, the first of its kind in Costa Rica. It also facilitated new policies being created for Social Security and the National Insurance Institute so our lifeguards could enjoy the job security every essential worker deserves. 

Municipal funding represents 60% of our operating budget, which is enough to cover salaries but not the equipment, mandatory recurrent training, uniforms, or maintenance on the lifeguard stands. The shortfall this year will be $40,000, for which we depend on our community and friends for donations. Unfortunately, this year’s major fundraising event on July 4th did not happen and due to COVID-19 restrictions neither will a December event. 

We employ five full-time lifeguards who rotate between Playa Dominical and Playa Hermosa. Our vision is to extend lifeguards services to more beaches with the necessary equipment to save lives. In the meantime, however, we need your help to keep the current program alive.

There is no guarantee the Municipality will renew our contract after March of next year, therefore, we need to both fund this year’s shortfall and build up some savings to cover salaries should there be a problem or delay. We are also very much in need of two quad bikes for patrols and a jet ski which will allow us to save lives farther from our towers and in more dangerous conditions. 

Please consider how you can help today. Every dollar goes directly to protecting our community, friends, and their families. To make a one-time or monthly US tax-deductible donation (to the extent allowable under US law) visit our partner Amigos de Costa Rica, a U.S. based 501c3 non-profit organization here: https://www.classy.org/give/258087/ 

If you wish to donate by Paypal – click here.

Donations can also be made in Costa Rica by direct deposit to our Banco Nacional account:

Asoc. Guardavidas de la Zona Surf de Costa Rica

Cedula Juridica 3-002-738759

Cuenta en colones: 200-01-195-003885-0

Iban: CR39015119520010038851

Cuenta en dollars: 200-02-195-002023-9

Iban: CR45015119520020020237

Please do let us know if you have any further questions or need assistance with your donations. You can signup to receive updates through our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/GuardavidasCostaBallena 

Kind Regards, 

Alvaro Cedeño
Lifeguard Captain

Greg Gordon

President – Association Guardavidas de la Zona Surf de Costa Rica

www.lifeguardscostaballena.com