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Drowning doesn't look like the movies. Here's how to spot it.

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Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
A screenshot of flip, float, and follow from Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project's video on drowning survival strategies.

People have started to drown right next to Dave Benjamin without him realizing it.

He’s co-founder of Great Lakes Surf Rescue project. When a person is drowning, he said they’re vertical in water with their face just above water. It can go unnoticed.

“That’s why it’s so important to know what drowning looks like, especially in open bodies of water like Lake Michigan," Benjamin said. "If there’s waves and dangerous currents at the time of the incident, it’s like a moving needle in a moving haystack to be able to find them and get them out of the water.”

If you find yourself drowning, he said to follow flip, float, and follow. Flip onto your back, float to conserve energy, and find a path out of where you are. He said floating is the most important step.

His group is looking to support legislation to require life rings at every waterfront to help save lives, he said. Illinois just signed a law requiring life rings at every waterfront and beach.

"We would like to see that in other states to follow in the Great Lakes area, because right now it’s kind of hit or miss whether a beach has rescue equipment or not," Benjamin said.

During Memorial Day weekend, he said drownings shot up 71% from last year.

Ben Jodway is an intern, serving as a reporter for WCMU Public Media and the Pioneer in Big Rapids. He has covered Indigenous communities and political extremism in Michigan.