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According to reports by the Portuguese Federation of Lifeguards, 600 deaths have been recorded in aquatic environments in the last five years, with the vast majority of drownings occurring at sea. In an attempt to counteract these figures, the Association of Surf Schools of Portugal (AESP) and the Instituto de Socorros a Náufragos (ISN) are promoting 5 free training courses during the month of May.

What if surfers were also lifeguards? This was the question posed by the Association of Surf Schools of Portugal, which is at the origin of the Surf & Rescue project. In the words of Afonso Teixeira, Executive Director of the AESP, "surfers, coaches and surf schools participate in the rescue and support of hundreds of people at sea every year, usually in an informal way and with no record of occurrences. Recognizing this reality and its importance, AESP and ISN have formed a partnership that establishes a link between surfers and lifeguards all along the national coast."

Now in its fifth edition, Surf & Rescue has more than 350 participants, spread across 7 municipalities. This May, in the same month as European Maritime Day and Navy Day, both on May 20, the initiative will reach 5 municipalities from the north to the south of the country. Espinho (May 15), Torres Vedras (May 20), Sesimbra (May 21), Matosinhos (May 23) and Lagos (May 29), just in time for the start of the bathing season.

Surfers can be found in the sea all year round - not just during the bathing season - and with some basic knowledge they can really make a difference in drowning situations. Thus, over the course of 7 hours of training, which is divided between a theoretical and practical component and practical exercises - namely rescue without means, rescue with a board, and a complete sequence of rescue and basic life support - the participants learn not only how to rescue drowning victims, but also how to act in situations where they themselves may be in danger. The classes take place right on the beach, for a maximum of 60 participants, with experts such as military trainers from the Instituto de Socorros a Náufragos, as well as experienced surfers and coaches such as João Guedes (father and son).

With the aim of promoting the exchange of knowledge between lifeguards and surfers, anyone with the slightest knowledge of surfing can sign up, free of charge, on the initiative's official website. Professional lifeguards, certified by the ISN, can also sign up via the National Maritime Authority's website. To take part, registrants must be accompanied by a wetsuit and the board they use to surf and/or a soft board for beginning rescuers. At the end, the training awards 1.4 Credit Units for the revalidation of the IPDJ Coach Titles (TPTD - Professional Sports Coach Title, issued by the IPDJ - Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth).

The Surf & Rescue initiative is promoted by the Portuguese Surf Schools Association (AESP) and the Shipwreck Relief Institute (ISN), with the support of the Princess Charlène of Monaco Foundation, the La Roche-Posay brand, the Ocyano creative studio, and the participating municipalities - Espinho, Torres Vedras, Sesimbra, Matosinhos and Lagos. This is the first project in Portugal to be supported by the Princess Charlène of Monaco Foundation. In the words of H.S.H. Princess Charlène of Monaco, "the Foundation seeks to broaden its impact and contribute to the creation of safer coastal environments by raising awareness among individuals who regularly visit these sites of their potential dangers, despite their attractiveness for activities such as surfing".

La Roche-Posay is also joining the initiative, adding that "the brand's presence in the project aims to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and skin cancer prevention, a topic for which surfers and lifeguards are the ideal spokespeople, given their high exposure to the sun," explains Margarida Lopes, Advocacy and Communication Manager LDB. Cris Santos, Founder of Ocyano, adds that developing projects related to the sea is at the heart of her creative studio, "as surfers and other water sports enthusiasts, we recognize the importance of having more and more people prepared to carry out rescues safely, and surfers are privileged to do so. Often, there is no one else around and surfers are the first to arrive. In this way, we will certainly be able to prevent many drownings."


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