Your New Year’s Resolution may seem a little lame compared to Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue lifeguards Nichole Emerson and Vasili Pleqi’s idea for kicking off 2016. Over a period of 10 days, the Jax Beach lifeguards joined a six-person ocean rescue team working near the Greek island of Lesvos to assist in helping the thousands of Syrian refugees escape and keep their heads above water.

lesvos map

The waters around the island are rough (to put it lightly) and are frigid this time of year, so hypothermia is a serious threat. It also doesn’t help that the drivers of the vessels are typically inexperienced at best, and have little knowledge of how to navigate through choppy conditions. On top of all that, the boats are extremely overcrowded.

refugee boat

Boat operators are typically inexperienced. When combined with overburdened vessels, the results can often be deadly.

In an interview about the experience, Emerson said on her first day there, a boat carrying over 200 people almost capsized. She added that there were no docks or piers upon which the boats could safely tether. To make matters worse, the boats were arriving at a rocky area surrounded by freezing water temps.

This badass team of lifeguards was assembled by the International Surf Lifesaving Association. It’s an organization based out of Huntington Beach, California, whose mission is to, “Advance professional lifesaving development to areas in need around the globe,” according to their website.

Pleqi, who is fluent in Greek, spent his time out of the water helping train the local lifeguards with techniques from our very own Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. The rescue crew here at our hometown goes through hundreds of hours of training at the very least and are all trained as first responders.

It’s pretty awesome that local lifeguards got a chance to assist in a international effort like this. We often take our local lifeguards for granted, but reading about this should help you realize that we truly have some of the best in the business!