There’s more people on the trail. More at the beach. More buying boats. More outside in more places. Most of us have heard of — or experienced — that upswing in outdoor recreation, exacerbated by COVID-19.

But this “more” is sadly carrying into the numbers of those who drown in Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project issued its annual report recently, which showcased the sobering statistics:

There were 108 drownings on the Great Lakes in 2020, up from the 97 recorded in 2019. Worse, as of July 2, we’ve already lost 32 people, an 28 percent increase over where we were last year at this time. “Our” Lake Michigan is particularly deadly, claiming 15 lives this year, with Lakes Erie and Ontario taking six, and five drownings reported in Lake Huron.

Panic is drowning’s first stage, but few people know to expect it or how to overcome it, said GLSRP executive director Dave Benjamin in a press statement. Panic eventually exhausts the person into a vertical position and they can quickly submerge, he said.

His group instead teaches the “flip, float and follow” method, which prioritizes breathing above getting out of the water and shared a video on currents and drowning survival. The three elements are flip over onto your back and float; float to keep your head above water; and follow the safest path out of the water, not against the current.

Traverse City Area Public Schools and the YMCA already do a great job of teaching basic swimming and water safety to all third graders. But what if we could make “flip, float and follow” as ingrained in us as “stop, drop and roll?”

It’s a lesson we could all learn — at any age. Especially as we converge on the water, more and more.

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