The Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) has finally launched its first-ever virtual course–the Surf Responder Online Course. BWRAG’s Online Course delivers its impactful in-person summit experience in a virtual format for students to access at their own pace right at home. Geared towards surfers and ocean athletes of all levels and abilities, the Online Course shares essential lifesaving skills and tactics from the world’s most experienced and accomplished watermen and waterwomen. 

Since BWRAG’s first CPR training in big-wave surfer Kohl Christensen’s barn nearly 10 years ago, BWRAG’s programming has continued to evolve and become more dynamic and accessible to the everyday surfer. While the organization’s origins started in the big-wave surf community, it has evolved to serving the global ocean-going community at large. 

Prior to the global pandemic, BWRAGʻs in-person summits offered training in its proprietary ocean risk management curriculum, CPR certification, first-aid/medical interventions, mindful breathing and energy management, emergency action planning, spot analysis of surf breaks, forecasting, safety equipment review, and in-ocean water rescue (by person, surfboard, and jetski). 

2020 was heralded as the “breakout” year for the organization, with an ambitious 18-summit schedule planned. BWRAG had scheduled in-person summits for Hawaiʻi, California, North Carolina, Florida, Australia, Puerto Rico, Chile, Peru, Tofino, and Portugal, with plans to extend offerings in Asia and Africa in the upcoming years. With its 2020 schedule completely capsized by the global COVID-19 pandemic, BWRAG was forced to pivot and design a new way to deliver its critical life-saving training and risk management skills to the global surf community. This led to the creation of the Surf Responder Online Course. 

The Surf Responder Online Course is broken down into eight modules, each of which contains multiple video chapters filled with the essential knowledge needed to be prepared to save one’s own life or another’s. Taught by BWRAG’s elite instructor team and special guests, the Surf Responder Online Course covers the same comprehensive curriculum as the in-person course, and features closed

captioning in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese. Individuals who are interested in specific modules may purchase any of the eight modules a la carte. Those who wish to purchase a Patagonia PSI vest must complete the entire Surf Responder Online Course (all eight modules). The modules include the following topics: 

  1. Ocean Risk Management

This module presents students with BWRAG’s core curriculum component – risk management theory. Students will learn effective approaches to identifying and mitigating risk and cultivate the same decision-making process utilized by military units and first-responder agencies around the world. 

Instructor: Oceanside Harbor Police Captain and Big-Wave Boat Safety Supervisor Jon Hoover 

  1. CPR/AED

This module teaches students high-quality and high-performance CPR and AED techniques taught specifically for ocean/beach rescue situations, with a curriculum created by our long-time partners and top-rated CPR trainers at the AED Institute of Hawaii. 

Instructor: AED Institute founder and CPR authority Pam Foster, with special cameos by professional surfer and Positive Vibe Warriors Founder Dane Gudauskas, Vans Surf Amateur Team Rider Pua DeSoto and Kaiser Auberlan, Positive Vibe Warriors scholarship recipient and BWRAG Surf Responder graduate Jake Maki, and BWRAG Surf Responder graduate Keānuenue DeSoto. 

  1. First Aid: Bleeding Control, Breaks, Dislocations, and C-Spine Injuries

This module provides students with examples of hands-on training in administering aid to a drowning victim, bleeding control, joint immobilization, spinal injury extrication, and more. It focuses on the most common injuries and trauma scenarios seen in surf lineups. 

Instructor: Career paramedic and professional big-wave surfer Andrea Moller, with a special cameo by surf photographer and BWRAG Lifesaver Award Recipient Christa Funk. 

  1. Mindful Breathing & Energy Management

This module teaches students the theory and physiology of breath-hold along with practical breathing exercises that students can incorporate into their everyday surf preparation training. The module also focuses on how to develop the mental training necessary to stay calm and composed in high-stress situations, and how to conserve energy underwater in surf scenarios. 

Instructor: Professional big-wave surfer Greg Long 

  1. Spot Analysis

Paddling out to a break is one thing. Understanding how to navigate its dangers and consider its composition when responding to an emergency situation is another. This module will show students how to break down a surf break by identifying its hazards, assessing the risk factors, and implementing controls to increase the chances of successful outcomes in dangerous situations.

Instructors: Preeminent water safety expert Brian Keaulana and professional big-wave surfer Kohl Christensen, with special cameos by Tavarua Island Resort Managing Director Jon Roseman, BWRAG Instructor Liam Wilmott, and North Shore Lifeguard Andrew Logreco. 

  1. Emergency Action Planning

Taking that long-anticipated surf trip? This module will teach students how to create a robust safety plan for any surf break in the world. Students will learn the process for building a safety team, including creating a checklist of critical preparation steps to complete before your surf trip (e.g., recording locations of the nearest hospitals, contact information for rescue and emergency agencies, response time of emergency rescue services, etc.). Emergency action plans are an indispensable safety tool that seafaring surfers should never leave home without. 

Instructor: Oceanside Harbor Police Captain and Big-Wave Boat Safety Supervisor Jon Hoover 

  1. Safety Equipment

A well-prepared surfer is a well-equipped surfer. This module will highlight essential equipment to add to your safety quiver depending on the context of your surf mission, including first-aid kits, location beacons, heavy-duty surf leashes, jet ski accessories, and much more. The module also provides an in-depth review of both floatation technology (i.e., impact vests and suits) as well as inflation vests, including Patagonia’s PSI vest. 

Instructors: Professional big-wave surfer Mark Healey and Patagonia’s Research and Product Developer Andrew Reinhert 

  1. Water Rescue: Swim, Surfboard, and Jetski Rescues

Are you prepared to save your fellow surfer? This module will instruct students how to conduct unassisted swim rescues, surfboard rescues, one- and two-person jet ski rescues of a conscious and unconscious victim, C-Spine extrication of a victim from ocean to beach, and important in-water communication techniques to employ during an emergency situation. 

Instructors: Preeminent water safety expert Brian Keaulana, professional big-wave surfer Kohl Christensen, professional big-wave surfer Mark Healey, and Ocean Risk Specialist Pat Chong Tim. 

With the support of Kona Brewing Co.. BWRAG will host live virtual Q&A “Pau Hau Sessions” for the First Aid, Mindful Breathing & Energy Management, Safety Equipment, and Water Rescue modules. During each Pau Hana Session, registered course participants will have the opportunity to interact with the instructors and ask questions about the module content. The first Pau Hana Session is set for Tuesday, April 26 with big-wave surfer, paramedic, and BWRAG First-Aid Instructor Andrea Moller. Pau Hana Session event dates for the other modules will be announced at a later date. 

The response to the Surf Responder Online Course has been tremendous thus far, with students registered from over 20 countries and 30 U.S. states. The Surf Responder Online Course could not be possible without the support of Patagonia, North American Rescue, Kona Brewing Company, GeoBlue, Vans, Juneshine, Tavarua Island Resort, Kids 4 CPR, Ohana Construction, and the generous support of private donors.

To further increase the impact of its mission to save lives in the lineup, BWRAG is currently working with its global partners to develop a line of products and equipment for those who wish to enhance their ocean safety toolboxes. In the next several weeks, BWRAG will release two versions of its Surf Responder First-Aid Kits, which were developed in partnership with North American Rescue and Patagonia. 

Registration for the Surf Responder Online Course is now open. For more information about the Online Course and how to register, please visit the Stay up-to-date on upcoming BWRAG training opportunities, in-person summits, and exclusive products by visiting and by following BWRAG on Instagram (@b.w.r.a.g) and Facebook


The Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) exists to educate and train surfers in ocean risk management, safety protocols, equipment, technology, and skills training to maximize safe practices and to elevate the safety of those with whom they share the surf lineup. Led by Kohl Christensen, Danilo Couto, and Pat Chong Tim, under the mentorship and inspiration of elite water-safety technician and revered Hawaiian waterman Brian Keaulana, BWRAG’s mission is to share progress and key learnings with members of the surf industry to continue to advance awareness, best practices, and technological advancement. The BWRAG certification is a prerequisite for purchasing the Patagonia PSI Vest. A certificate of completion is given to each participant and can be presented to purchase the vest.

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