During this episode of Child Safety Source, we’re talking to expert swimmer and advocate for water safety Nate Tschohl! Nate has been around water his entire life. The son of a retired United States Coast Guard Captain, he grew up with a keen sense of the importance of water safety while living near the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Today, he is the proud co-founder of the International Water Safety Foundation.

As you can probably tell, Nate Tschohl has an obvious passion for drowning prevention. Among his many accomplishments, he works tirelessly to raise water safety awareness via the International Water Safety Foundation.

To this end, Nate spoke with Eric Lupton, Life Saver Pool Fence’s president. Together they discussed Nate’s experience, his work in spreading drowning awareness and more.

Watch the full video interview with Nate Tschohl:

Learning More about The International Water Safety Foundation

As we mentioned in the video, Nate is a man on a mission. His non-profit organization raises drowning awareness while teaching children the skills needed to survive in potentially unsafe water situations. At Life Saver Pool Fence, that’s certainly our kind of organization!

The International Water Safety Foundation aims to strengthen this public awareness and extol the benefits of learning to swim. They do this by providing basic water safety knowledge and swimming lessons, as well as CPR and safe rescue skills.

You can learn more about the International Water Safety Foundation by visiting their official homepage: http://drowningawareness.org/

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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Source interview with Nate Tschohl from September 17th, 2018:

#39 Nate Tschohl

Eric Lupton: On the internet. How is it going man?

Nate Tschohl: It’s going great how are you Eric?

Eric: I am fantastic.

Nate: I see you are brighter than this morning.

Eric: Yeah, yeah, like you were just saying you’re a morning person, and I’m not.

Nate: Yeah, I feel like I’ve already put in three hours of good words today.

Eric: Yeah, I probably beat you on the other end, you know, I go to bed usually around between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m., that’s my sweet spot. But, I didn’t want anything, I like being up late when everybody else is sleeping and I get stuff done.

Nate: Yeah, I kind of feel the same way when I wake up early. I’m like well, no one else is working, you know, whatever.

Eric: Yeah, you get ahead right.

Nate: Exactly, that’s right.

Eric: Perfect, so you know, you’ve got a lot going on, and it’s all really cool stuff. So, you know, can you kind of give me your origin story? Kind of where you came from?

Nate: Yeah, I will give you the rundown. So, I’m from the swimming world, I’m from the competitive swimming landscape. I was a college swimmer, I swam in Old Dominion. I ended up coaching at Old Dominion for several years, I coached at local club swim team, I coached summer league team, I coached high school teams. I was really, really inundated down on the swimming side, you know. I ran swim lessons, I ran swimming pools, I learned how to fix pool pumps, I did all that stuff – and throughout this whole entire, you know, aquatics-based life that I was living, I never really knew that all these people were drowning, not only in America, but everywhere else. I had a good buddy who gave me a call who I used to coach with, Sean Anderson, who’s USA students diversity consultant I think for the last 10 years or so, but he started International Water Safe Today a long time ago. He said… he called me up and he said, ‘hey, did you know that like hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people are drowning every single year?’ and, I was like, ‘What! No, that’s crazy.’ And yeah, so that’s where it started, you know, I started helping him volunteering a lot of time; website work, all the social media, a lot of the marketing type of things, you know.  You’re an unbelievable marketer or this podcast which is also on Facebook live, which also gets put on everywhere else. So…

Eric: Oh, thank you.

Nate: I think you know exactly what I’m talking about and then yeah, you know, international water safe today just got a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger. And so, that’s one of our… one of the main things that we do every single year is run International Work Safety Day. We have so many people communicating with us over the years about the day, asking for more help looking for funding, looking for donations of lifejackets, looking for the opportunity to become certified in lifeguarding or CPR, to become a trainer.

And so, can we kind of realize real quick the two things that we could help are the awareness, which we do with the day, and then focus on water safety education; and then secondly, we decided to build a fundraiser so that local initiatives, water safety initiatives could raise money for their own causes as well as raising money at the same time for a drowning intervention program in a country where child drowning is the leading killer of kids. So, our first program is swim Cambodia with Conrad who’s the main trustee, and they’ve been setting up the very first drowning intervention learn to swim program in Cambodia, where they’re losing six kids a day, you know, with a population that’s 25 times less than our population, which is kind of crazy.

So, they’re losing five times as many kids as we are with population that’s 25 times smaller, and obviously there’s a lot of reasons for that, right. I mean, there’s just so many. We turn a faucet on, we have water. So many people in all these countries have to go fetch their water, you know. They live on the water because that’s where the food source is, that’s where the water source is, that’s how you clean your dishes, that’s how you clean your clothes, all those things.

So, yeah so, that’s… we’re doing Tread-a-thons, you tread water for 2 hours, and you raise a bunch of money and you make a bunch of noise on the internet about what’s really going on. Like, people in the swimming community have no idea. When I call coaches up, I don’t mean to be blunt but I’m just… I just telling point-blank like, you don’t know this, but drowning is the leading killer of children in dozens of countries now, you know, we’ve fought in the communicable diseases for four decades with a ton of money, specifically malaria.

I don’t know how many of malaria nonprofits there are right now selling nuts, but it’s, I betcha it’s dozens, you know. They’re bringing in billions of dollars every year and water safety which is killing far more people, is bringing in basically nothing. I mean, we have Bloomberg that’s come in and put a huge chunk of money down and big props to him for getting the ball rolling, but I don’t know where… I don’t know where that money is going, you know. Other than hopefully the big project in Bangladesh, which is really the first scientifically evidence-based drowning intervention program that kind of finally proves that yes, some lessons save lives, right, which mean you… we already know that.

Eric: Of course, absolutely.

Nate: I’ve listened to a bunch of your shows and the public health nerds, as I like to call them, they always want to talk about the data and stuff like that. But, you know, for me, it’s like if you ask anyone in swimming like how do you prevent drownings, the answer is like, you teach them to swim, right. So yeah, there’s obviously other things; barriers of protection you guys do it better than everyone putting up pool fences and donating pool fences, and that’s a different Cambodia right, or Bangladesh or anywhere where they’re trying to corral these children.

Mom and dad are working, they’re going crazy, the supervision is not there and all of a sudden, you have a two-year-old walk off and now they’re in the water, you got sixty seconds in there and they’re dead. So, it’s uh… it’s a frightening problem, you know. I say in my videos we’re in the infancy of awareness where in an infancy of raising funds, where this is the beginning which is crazy, because it’s 2018 and we’re finally just … You have one of the first podcasts about safety to world, it’s mind boggling.

Eric: Yeah, I mean, maybe the first, actually, which is great, which you’re right, you’re right about that being crazy. Because, I assumed even knowing how small this is, that there had to be another one, there had to be something else going on, you know.

Nate: Yeah, sure

Eric: And, there’s just not like it don’t exist, you know.

Nate: I think Rick Kaufman

Nate: Rick Hoffman’s got one now, and I’m super excited about that.

Eric: He did mind and then after he did mine, he said I can do that, you know. You know, I’m like, if I can do it, anyone can do it.

Nate: There’s so many people that need to get the message out.

Eric: Oh, it’s awesome. I’m so excited by him.

Eric: Yeah, me too. I mean, there’s just… there’s just too many people to talk to, right.

Eric: Absolutely, so I mean you started all this from a phone call. Like literally, a buddy called you and said, you know, a lot people are drowning and you’re like, oh, I got to do this.

Nate: Yeah, you know, he was very adamant about it, and obviously, the disparity between African-American children ** just is drastic, right. So, I’ve learned a ton in regards to… I don’t know if you’ve been to the diversity and aquatics convention, that’s in Miami Florida every year in April. So, it’s not too far from you, hopefully you can get down there. Yeah, but you learn a lot of things that you didn’t know, you know. A lot of the reasons why African Americans in America can’t swim is because they were slaves, and we used to drown them. It wasn’t even fifty years ago, I think the New York Times just did a great piece and it showed, you know, segregation and race riots being started because of an aquatics director trying to pour mutant acid into a swimming pool, which is where that this picture came from.

And these are some of the things, when you get to the diverse and aquatics convention where you’re like, oh holy cow, I mean no wonder 70 percent just have no experience putting their face in the water whatsoever. And, the need is drastic and it’s not just black kids, it’s Latino kids. It’s white kids, we just do not learn how to swim in America. We think we do, but we don’t. I think what’s happened is, everything’s become super privatized for the most part where swim lessons are too expensive for a vast majority of people in America. How are they supposed to spend 40 or 50 dollars a lesson and you need 10, 15, 20 lessons to really become semi comfortable, right.

We need to get back to the education systems being the provider of water safety education in classroom setting. I think that’s number one in terms of our goals, that’s what international water safety day really is. It’s one day a year where people all over the world can talk about water safety in a classroom setting; it’s literally the first time, hundreds of thousands of children will be talked to about water safety. Now, I live in Virginia Beach, we’ve got 12 rec centers, we have pools, we have hundreds of miles worth of waterways, and we don’t teach a lick in school, zero. Just… I think we just had this conversation on your thread yesterday, I was asking uh, maybe not Paul D’Mello but was it his brother. I was asking if there’s water safety education in Florida and other schools and there isn’t… I mean, what we’re not even where I’ve been taking the kids in Virginia Beach out to the beach to say this is a wave, this is a current, like, which way is it going. What are we talking about?

This is not rocket science, you know, who has the best drowning record is Iceland, must have zero people drown. Is it because they only have 350,000 people, or is it because that every single kid in the country has to learn how to swim in physical education requirements; 30% of all PE courses are swimming from elementary school up to high school, right. And, you wonder why they’re so good, and they’re good at swimming periods; like competitive swimming, they’ve got some great people for such a small country. Um, but that’s what happens when you can get everybody involved right so there’s it’s just uh every place is different everyone’s got a little bit different of an issue, and in America I think it’s… there’s zero water, all the water safety education got sucked right out of the school systems, it’s gone. Now, it’s privatizing, it’s ridiculously expensive.

Eric: I mean, you’re absolutely right, you know, I’m… Christy Brown who’s on a couple days ago, you know. I think she used the expression that, you know, swim lessons have become the privilege of the rich, you know, it’s something that you can do if you can afford it, you know.

Nate: That’s right**

Eric: You know, and other countries do to a better, you know. I was just saying the other day to how, you know, Kate who, if you ever watched us do jeopardy, Kate she does jeopardy with me, and she’s our Logistics Director and super smart. And, she’s an awesome person but she went to college in Australia and she was a competitive swimmer in the States, actually from Virginia where you’re from, and did really well, you know, top of her class, best swimmers, you know, went to Australia figured she’d do the same thing, crush it, and quickly realized that being, you know, the best in the US means your ear about number 87 in Australia, you’re just the bottom of the rung and she stopped swimming competitively over there, she just couldn’t keep up, you know. She wasn’t even in the ballpark, you know.

Nate: I mean, they have…they have a great swimming community, a great swimming culture in surfing huge thing over there; kids involved on the water, it’s a mainstay thing. Actually, I think they have an issue where the swim teams can’t keep the kids that come in you, there’s just two other, there’s too much other things that they’d rather do like surf, so yeah. I mean, you know that they have had some programs that have been teaching some lessons for almost a hundred years now in Australia… in Western Australia. I got to watch a presentation done by Fran wood at the drowning prevention conference the World Congress on training in Vancouver, and they… basically, the government has subsidized some lessons for every single person and that’s what we should be doing in a lot of these areas like Virginia Beach. We have 10-12 pools, like we have all the people that are already trained we don’t need human resources, we don’t need swimming resources, we don’t need buses we have all these things, you know. We’re finally getting… they started a program called SOS students on the swim and they’re finally beginning to teach the second graders on the lowest tier schools in Virginia Beach House One.

They get ten two weeks, ten free lessons which is unbelievable, but this is a private donor type of situation. Again, this isn’t taxpayer money, we just passed a bill we’re going to put fourteen million bucks into the budget for pre-k education. It’s a huge topic right, none of the dollar or two million bucks they’re going to water safety education school system, none of those money’s going to pay the kids and we can make the cost super small, right. I think they said it’s basically for an entire class, two weeks or less entrenched transportation and everything. It’s only 500 bucks; the 500 bucks boom. There’s 30 kids in a second-grade class that all gets just to learn how to swim for free, you know, ten lessons and we’re really, really far away from the things that we really need to do. Dr. Steven Waller was at the diversity and aquatics convention and he said something that I think hopefully impacted a lot of people, and his point, he’s not a lot of research on the disparity of ethnicity and drowning in America, and one thing that he basically said was like, look there’s like eight or ten or twelve people that are in your communities that are making all decisions.

If you show up at City Council with five hundred swimmers and you demand water safety education be put into the school system, demand that water safety lessons be provided, they’re gonna have to do something, you know. If five people show up, they’re just going to say hey, thanks a lot for your time talking, you know, private donations. Cool, see you later. And, I think there is a point were, you really do have to show up in numbers and you will get something done. And I truly believe that, you know. So, our goal is to try to be the template, I’ve always felt like I’m just going to be the template. So, I treaded water for ten hours last year in the Chesapeake Bay, and I raised a little bit over fifteen hundred bucks.

Eric: That’s so cool

Nate: Thank you. Which is it… it’s not crazy right. But, my point is to show that every swimmer in the world can raise 500 bucks. If I can raise 1500 bucks, you can raise 500 and that will go a significantly far away for those from both the local communities and in the international communities.

Eric: Yeah, I think, you know, I think you’re right about, you know, realizing how small the number of people are that actually make decisions right, you know. What you think of these organizations as he’s kind of like giant, you know, it’s the school board, is this huge, you know, impenetrable force that you can’t even talk to you right. It’s the, you know, that’s right. Or, the government for that matter, but really, we get down to it, is just a handful of people, you know. Yes, go to barbecues they hang out there’s, you know. You call on the phone, you know, they’re human beings, you can get to those people and you can convince them.

Nate: Yeah, I mean we have a… internationally, we have an issue from the very tough and the international life-saving Federation be in charge of a sport that they’re trying to peddle to the International Olympic Committee to become an Olympic sport. Yet, they’re supposed to also be the world authority on drowning, it’s a joke. It’s a joke, it needs to be redone. Those people barely even have websites, they don’t have social media, they don’t have anything, you know. It is… when you see the egos that are inside of here trying to tear down good people, doing unbelievable things in other countries. It hurts, it is so sad to see the egos at the top of these organizations.

All they care about is money and power, and they don’t care about all the kids drowning. I really do… I do not believe that if they did, they would split it up, because you cannot be the organization that’s supposed to be the leader in preventing the leading killer of kids, dying in the world while also trying to peddle us for it. And, I think that’s the first and foremost thing that needs to happen at the very top is that they need to split into two pieces internationally. I think that’s going to be the one of the biggest things that helps the trickle-down effect to all these other countries and organizations that are trying to do unbelievable things. They’re trying to teach people how to swim you know, everyone’s got this curriculum you’ve got to use this one, and you got to pay us all this money to do it. And, you know, there’s an aquatic survival program that’s completely for free. It was …that was created by people that want to see the drowning rate go down. So, that’s available on our website; also, we have got a lot of resources like that if you are in a foreign country and you don’t have anywhere to turn, you can download the aquatic survival program and it’s really impressive and it was made specifically for low and middle income countries.

Eric: So, how does that work? So, if someone** the program, what’s involved in the program, what are the steps we’ll call it?

Nate: So, it’s basically like… swim Cambodia’s, using this exact same curriculum. So, the first most important part is, what is water safety education? Have you not seen the aquatic Survival program?

Eric: I have not, no.

Nate: Oh, you’re gonna love it. You know, if you look up Felix from the Felix foundation, he’s been doing amazing things in Africa, he’s one of the other guys that has just been beat up by the politics and the egos at the top of this organization. But, the first thing you get these giant signs, these giant posters and it’s literally the first step in these countries is water safety education, which is ironic cuz in America, the highest income country of them all, we don’t do them to any of that. But, that’s the first step when you get into a lower middle-income country, right.

Oh, we got to do water safety first, but not America. So, it’s almost like we’re trying to solve the problem backwards right in America, where there’s no education, let’s just have people go and pay for it. So yeah, and then the aquatic survival program is… its survival swimming lessons right, it’s about floating, it’s about treading and that’s kind of like the symbolism of the art Tread-a-thons is really, you just probably saw the article about the woman who fell off the cruise ship two days ago. She lived. Why? Not because she knows how to do butterfly like Michael Phelps? Because she knows how to float on her back and relax, and we saw the same, we see the same things over and over again in other countries.

There was a someone presenting that the drowning prevention conference from China and they showed a video clip of a woman who had been in the sea for over 24 hours floated on her back. She only had one lesson her entire life and that was just to learn how to float on her back. That was the only swim lesson she ever woman, and she floated for 24 hours and lived.

Eric: It probably saved your life

Nate: Obviously, yeah, one little lesson. Instead, we have 400-page curriculum, and you got to pay off all this money, you know. In these other countries, the aquatic survival program is just amazing. There’s a lot …we have a lot of issues, but we also have a lot of good people. And, we just need… we need to figure it out together.

Eric: So, the program for these other countries like Cambodia is using, you know, what age does it start at?

Nate: That’s a great question. So, most of the people are, you know, most of them are second graders, first graders, second graders. So, 6-7 years old right. Yeah, in terms of learning; when I was talking to Rick last night he kind of said this the same… something similar. He said, you know that 25 years ago when my daughter drowned, we weren’t even offered some lessons If you were under five years old. They said you know, and that just gives you an idea of how far away we are.

Eric: I mean, they were talking about ear aches right, they don’t want people get ear infections and when I started doing this, you know, 20 years ago they were saying yeah, don’t, you know, don’t put your kids in swim lessons under five years old, you know. They could get an ear infection which we always said, you know, well, rather get an ear infection, if …

Nate: I mean, things change right. Just um, you know, like it seems like ISR’s amazing; you’ve talked to hundreds of the people, I’ve talked to my best friends have done it, it’s the thing that’s sad right; is again, it take, it cost thousands of dollars to become certified, it takes all this time and then they have to charge people. So again, the poorest people will… they will never get those lessons because they can’t afford them. And, I don’t know if the other programs will jump on board.

And, all the sudden start doing more things than Mommy and Me Swim Lessons, I would assume that they will try to create their own ISR type of curriculum, because it’s a money thing, right. But, hopefully what it becomes is, it becomes a public safety thing and it’s subsidized by your local government and you understand that this is an investment in making children smarter at at age of three, four, five, six years old, you know. One person you should try to get on here is Robin Jorgenson. Robin Jorgensen, she’s from Australian she did a huge study with Griffith University a few years ago called um, Adding Capital to Young Australians, and what they did was, they tried to see what the benefits were other than learning to swim, that would come from learning to swim. And, what she found was, if you have a five-year-old that learns to swim and goes through some lessons versus a five-year-old that doesn’t, that five year old that does will come out fifteen months ahead socially and emotionally, ten months ahead cognitively and twenty months ahead in taking directions. Wow but this… we’re not talking about this right.

Well, this is again one of the marketing problems I think that we have is, especially in America where it’s ‘you need to teach your kids how to swim where they’re gonna drown’ and it’s much easier for people to be like, looking you’re not going to some lessons, you’re not going to the pool, we’re not going to the ocean, we’re not doing any of that and that, and that way, you are not going to drown too. Whereas, it needs to be… we need to explain to people that this is a head start in life, you know. Even the name of it y’all adding young capital like, what second grade teacher wouldn’t want the kids coming into class to be twenty months ahead almost two years ahead in taking directions. Again, what are we talking about?

This is just not rocket science, we just need to; we need to either form small coalition’s locally and you have to go and get it passed locally, or you have to go to the state, or you have to do a federally. And, swimming doesn’t have the money to lobby right, but we do have … we do have the people that can do it. So, maybe it is just getting involved in your local community at first, to go in and say like, we’re not this; is unacceptable that we live in Virginia Beach and we’re not teaching our children what a rip current is at all in school, you know. We have the biggest naval base in the world, five seconds away from Virginia Beach. You cannot join the military if you do not know how to swim. There is a lot of these kids in Virginia Beach that is economically challenged and parents cannot pay $40 of lesson for 20 lessons, they will never get to go to the military, our number one employer.

All these people want to talk about saving the bay, they want to talk about how Norfolk’s sinking because of climate change and rising sea levels and sea grasses going and dying and the blue crab population dying and the stripers dying and it’s like, how does…how does anyone in this community if they did not know how to swim. Why would they be interested in trying to figure out if blue crabs are dying. It’s like, this… it’s frustrating because we’ve been talking about stuff like this for years, until I’m almost blue in the face. Well, it looks like I’m a little bit red in the face, but it’s… I think we’re getting there, you know. It’s things like this podcast where we can get the word out and we can talk about what we’re doing, you know. The reason we created the fundraiser was to put money back into the pockets of all these small foundations we’re a father and a mother lost a baby and now they don’t know what to do. And they… and you hear the same thing right, we didn’t know, we weren’t educated. I can’t tell you how many times I hear that.

Eric: I have…on this podcast, I’ve heard it so many times…

Nate: Exactly, that’s right. So, what if …I think you said someone was trying to get in into the pediatricians, right, that’s a great organization, like OBGYNs, ped