Diana Bletter
July 20

Surf lifesaving competitions are being held for the first time at the Maccabiah Games in Israel this summer.

Surf lifesaving combines swimming, lifesaving techniques and general fitness. The competitions involve running and then swimming or board-paddling to rescue someone at sea in the shortest amount of time. There are both individual and team events.

The exhibition events, scheduled for July 20 and 21 on the Netanya beach, are an initiative of the Israel Life Saving Federation (ILSF), a nonprofit organisation that seeks to prevent drownings through education and practical courses.

Paul Hakim, an Australian native, and his brother, Danny, started the ILSF in 2020. Their organization runs the Nippers program for ages 7-13 and Dolphins for 14-17, as well as year-round water safety and surf rescue courses training children and adults to be volunteer first responders in the water.

Since the program began, ILSF course graduates reportedly have performed more than 70 rescues.

There will be participants at the Maccabiah event from around the world, including Israel, Singapore and Poland. The event will be judged by International Life Saving Federation judges.

The sport’s historic debut at the Maccabiah games comes in the midst of dangerous days on Israel’s beaches and waterways. Since the start of Israel’s beach season in April, 20 people have drowned and many left in critical condition, including several children.

“We are delighted that the Maccabiah recognizes surf lifesaving as an important sport,” Paul Hakim said. Advocates of surf lifesaving are hoping it will included at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.