International Aquatic History Symposium & Film Festival

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International Aquatic History Symposium & Film Festival poster
ISHOF welcomes the Honoree Class of 2012 and IAHSFF.
Bob Duenkel (IAHSFF Co-Chairman), Dr Stathis Avramidis (IAHSFF Co-Chairman) and Bruce Wigo (ISHOF's President/CEO)
Greg Bonann, acted as Ambassador and Chief Judge of the Film Review Committee.
Tom Woyte (IAHSFF member of the Judging Committee) presents the "Best Poster Award" to Dr. Nancy B. White.
Cherryl Furjanic, Terje Stakset, Josh Waletzki, Deborah McDonalds and Bruce Wigo at the Film Festival Award ceremony.
International Aquatic History Symposium & Film Festival Contributors
Chuck Kroll, Lynn Sher, an IAHSFF attendee and Bruce Wigo.
Shawn Anderson, Kevin Dawson, Bruce Wigo and Robert Prutter during a panel discussion.
Stathis Avramidis interviews Lisa Bier, the book author of "The Rise of American Women’s Swimming, 1870-1926".
Puzzle with all those that contributed to the success of the International Aquatic History Symposium and Film Festival.
Films presented at the International Aquatic History Symposium and Film Festival.

In May 9-12, 2012, the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) hosted and organized the inaugural International Aquatic History Symposium & Film Festival (IAHSFF) at the International Swimming Hall of Fame on 9-12 May 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A. This highlighted a modest great start of an event that aims to become a tradition in the field of aquatic history and cinematography. The participants and presenters that attended it represented a very diverse and illustrious group of dedicated professionals and other aquatic enthusiasts of over 10 countries! Successful and new film makers, respected academics and experienced water safety and aquatic advocates, met for a very intensive 4-day event that had everything that could possible one would want to see; keynotes, oral and poster presentations, films, museum tour memorabilia collections, and book signings. IAHSFF is pleased to present the publication of the proceedings titled “The IAHSFF Book”. It is a 254-page A4 size book that it is available for sale by the International Swimming Hall of Fame.


The International Aquatic History Symposium & Film Festival was organized and hosted by Dr. Stathis Avramidis DipEd, BEd, MSc, PhD (Δρ Στάθης Αβραμίδης), a Visiting Research Fellow at Leeds Metropolitan University (UK) Associate at Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Greece) and Bob Duenkel, Curator of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Co-Chairman Dr. Avramidis said: "We were born in the water and a significant proportion of our body is water; 75% of our planet is covered by water and 95% of our body is constituted by water. This explains why the history of aquatics is a so intriguing theme for a symposium and a film festival. Let’s meet in the ‘Mecca of Aquatics’ to witness the extraordinary achievements that we have made from antiquity until today."

Co-Chairman Bob Duenkel, said: “We were born in the water and a significant proportion of our body is water; 75% of our planet is covered by water and 95% of our body is constituted by water. This explains why the history of aquatics is a so intriguing theme for a symposium and a film festival. Let’s meet in the ‘Mecca of Aquatics’ to witness the extraordinary achievements that we have made from antiquity until today.”


A number of prestigious personalities acted as Ambassadors of the event:

  • ISHOF's President/CEO, Bruce Wigo, said: “We are initiating this symposium because we believe that the heritage of swimming is a fundamental component of its future and we want to be sure that today's generation learns to respect and appreciate those who have gone before them.”
  • Professor Stephen J. Langendorfer, said: “I commend the International Swimming Hall of Fame for supporting and hosting the first-ever International Aquatic History Symposium Film Festival. The history of aquatics as revealed in art and film is an area that deserves more study and attention. The Symposium will be an exciting event that I would encourage aquatic scholars and practitioners to attend.”
  • Gregory J. Bonann, creator/director/producer of Baywatch and owner of Tower 18 Productions, said: "My father introduced me to swimming when I was 2 years old. It became the social and professional fabric of my life. It seems only natural that my passion for swimming and the water would lead me to my first job as a Los Angeles County Beach Lifeguard. When I pursued a career in television I was encouraged to "write what you know,” so I wrote about the heroes that patrol the beaches of Southern California. Swimming, the ocean and filmmaking have been the key elements that have shaped and molded me as a man and guided my life, so I was very excited when I heard the ISHOF was putting together this symposium.”
  • Prof. Kevin Dawson, PhD from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said: “Today, most African Americans are inadequate swimmers and swimming is largely regarded as a “white” or “un-black” activity. The Center for Disease Controls recently reported that black Americans are at least 50% more likely to drown than white Americans, labeling the black drowning rate an epidemic. Ironically, the African Americans antecedents in both Africa and enslaved in America were proficient swimmers and historical sources reveal that they were routinely better swimmers than people of European descent. The historical study of swimming can be used to promote swimming in today’s African-American Community.”

Symposium Awards

During the International Aquatic History Symposium, the following awards were presented:

  • The "IAHSFF People's Choice Best Oral Presentation Award", went to Dave Barney for the topic: "O Brave New World of Super Suits: So Fast Even Phelps Didn’t Know the Water was There ".
  • The "IAHSFF People's Choice Best Poster Presentation Award" went to Dr. Nancy B. White for the topic: "Lifeguard Training Lessons from the Past".
  • The "IAHSFF People's Choice Most Prolific Contributor Award" went to Dr Stathis Avramidis for his 18 contributions to the event in the form of oral, poster and cinematography.

Film Awards

During the International Film Festival, numerous aquatic films were reviewed and selected for screening. Among them, after careful consideration of the Film Review Committee, the following won in a number of categories:

  • The “IAHSFF Best Olympic History Film” went to Jens Lind for the film: “The Sunshine Olympics 1912”. “This extraordinary film tells the story of the games in Stockholm, at the time the biggest and most successful sporting event ever. This film was a wonderful trip throughout history”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Film Director” went to Cheryl Furjanic for the film: “Sync or Swim”. “This amazing film offers a candid, intimate look at the misunderstood sport of synchronized swimming that is so much more than sequins and smiles”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Aquatic Safety Film” went to Dr Frank Pia for the film “On Drowning”. “This pioneering film teaches lifeguards how to recognize the Instinctive Drowning Response”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Swimming Film” went to Deborah Mc Donald for the film: “50 year old Freshman Suzanne Heim-Bowen”. “This wonderful feature documentary chronicles the effort to survive the grind of competition and the disadvantages of age, of the 50 year old International Master’s Swimming Hall of Famer, Suzanne Heim-Bowen”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Synchronized Swimming Film” went to Paul Carvalho for the film: “The Mermaids’ Club”. “This is the first documentary ever made by an experienced filmmaker, to explore the birth and early evolution of synchronized swimming in North America”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Short Film” went to Dr Tom Griffiths for the film: “Five Minute Scanning Strategy”. “This innovative film, made by a well respected water safety expert, was developed after a decade of research and explains how lifeguards can stay more alert while on duty”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Aquatic Training Film” went to Terje Stakset for the film: “How to Teach Young Children to Swim”. “This interesting film shows the swimming progress of children from 3 to 5 years”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Aquatic History Film” went to Ted Woods for the film: “Whitewash”. “This wonderful film, made by a young filmmaker, explores the complexity of race issues in America through the struggle and triumph of black surfers”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Young Film Director” went to Dr Stathis Avramidis for the film: “Ode to (Lifesaving) Joy”. “This remarkable film, made by a young filmmaker, pays a tribute to Lucas Bistarakis, who is known today as the ‘father’ of Hellenic lifesaving”.
  • The “IAHSFF Best Aquatic Television Trailer” went to Josh Waletzky and Jenny Levison for the film: “Parting the Waters (Trailer)”. “This is the trailer of an intimate film with broad social reach – showing us how sport has the power to transform individuals, who in turn transform society. I am looking forwards to see the final film”.
  • The “IAHSFF Honorary Film Award” went to Bud Greenspan for his contributions to cinematography. Bud, who passed away in 2010, was a talented and award winning film director, writer, and producer known for his sports documentaries.

The IAHSFF Organizing Committee recognizes the value of those awards and presented them with fairness to those demonstrating the most extinguished contributions in terms of rigor, clarity, innovation and inspiration. The judging panel of experts, academics and film directors decided upon certain criteria for giving the awards.

Comments about IAHSFF

The responses of those attended the event, were outstanding and extremely positive. Overall, they all appreciated the value of the event and the effort that was made by all the members of the IAHSFF Organizing and Program Committees to implement it. Some of these comments are:

  • Bruce Wigo: “ISHOF is the world repository for aquatic history. So it is natural and maybe a little overdue that it had an international aquatic history symposium and film festival. The event has exceeded our expectations, because the quality of the presentation and films was absolutely incredible. This was a great first step in making this an incredible popular for people from all around the world”.
  • Dr [[Stathis Avramidis]: “This event was a modest very good beginning, of what we want to be a tradition and The Destination for everyone involved in aquatics. While organizing the symposium and film festival, I watched many films; I saw many photos and read a lot of scholarly documents of the past. In all of them, I saw athletes, lifesavers and ordinary people, from all the corners of the world competing or engaged in aquatics. I saw proud faces, anticipation, glory and defeat. Most of them now belong to history. I wonder how the historian of the future will perceive us in 100 years from now. I believe that we should all be proud for participating in this inaugural event.”
  • Josh Waletzky: “The responses of the people that watched my film were terrific. A documentary often needs to be screened first at its core audience. With so many aquatic films currently produced, I think that this film festival can be a great destination for all of them.”
  • Ralph Goto: “This event had many interesting topics and speakers. I liked being here. There were several presentations and films about water safety, which is my field, that I enjoyed watching.”
  • Lea Bean and Dawn Pawson Bean: “We like very much this symposium. We saw several presentations about synchronized swimming and were able to present some of our work.”
  • Sony Tanabe: “We are very happy to be here, to present our work, see oral and poster presentations and sign books.”
  • Craig Perlow: “This was a wonderful event where I met several interesting people and presented my memorabilia. I would like to attend again and recommend this event to others.”
  • Robert Pruter: “What brought me here is my profession as a historian. We need historians to remind us our past and what made us what we are today. This is an amazing symposium. It encourages people to come together, to recover and present the past about aquatics.”
  • Prof Robert Barney: “This event was full of interesting topics that I enjoyed attending. I had the opportunity to act as presenter, reviewer and Ambassador of the event so I know that the organizers put a lot of work to make it possible.”
  • Prof Kevin Dawson: “Before I come I was really sure what I was going to see here. But I saw a lot of interesting and exciting presentations about aquatic and water safety history. It is good to have this nice mix of scholars that approach the issues of history and aquatics from difference perspectives. As Ambassador, I recommend the next IAHSFF to my colleagues.”


During the event, the following exhibitions took place:

  • “A ‘First Look’ Anniversary Celebration of Lifeguarding, Lifesaving and Water Safety in American 1880-1980s”, Charles R. (Chuck) Kroll
  • “Synchronized Swimming: Historical Collection of Photos, Newspaper Articles and Costuming”, Dawn Pawson Bean

Oral Presentations

During the event, the following oral presentations took place: The following 15 oral presentations were made:

  • Facts, Legends and Myths on the Evolution of Resuscitation; Hollywood Films: Truths and Myths in relation to Drowning and Lifesaving; Aquatic and Lifesaving Related Messages that arise from Art, Stathis Avramidis
  • Body, Mind and Spirit: The Representation of Swimming in Olympic Documentary Film, Elizabeth Emery
  • Resistance, Persistence, Providence: Swimming Science, David Armbruster, and the Odyssey of the Butterfly Stroke, Robert K. Barney, David E. Barney
  • Brave New World of Sup er Suits: So Fast Even Phelps Didn’t Know the Water was There, David E. Barney
  • Enslaved Underwater Divers in the Atlantic World; Swimming, Surfing, and Underwater Diving in Atlantic Africa, Kevin Dawson
  • “Having the Necessities”: The Remarkable Story of the Dusable High School Team of Chicago, 1935-1952, Robert Pruter
  • Hawaii’s Contribution to the Swimming World, Richard “Sonny” Tanabe
  • A History of Olympic Pins and Badges and How Collecting Changed My Life”, Craig R. Perlow
  • A Race of Swimmers: Native American Swimming Skills Before and after the Arrival of the Europeans”; The Design and Culture of American Pools: Before and After Integration Became the Law of the Land”, Bruce Wigo
  • Prints, Postcards, Posters, Photos, Pins and Patches: Collecting Swimming and other Aquatic Related Memorabilia, Charles R. (Chuck) Koll
  • Masters Swimming for Life – From the Beginning, Barbara Dunbar, Robert E. Beach, John R. Spannuth, Meegan Wilson

Poster Presentations

During the event, the following poster presentations were made: The following 25 posters were displayed:

  • The ‘New Zealand Death’: Drowning in Nineteenth Century New Zealand, Kevin Moran
  • James Bond and Swimming: The Books, Murray Cox
  • A History of the Lifesaving Foundation’s Ireland Medal and its Recipients; A Historical Overview of the Lifesaving Foundation’s First Decade, John Connolly
  • Polish History of Water Rescue, Romuald Michniewicz, Iwona Michniewicz
  • The History and Problem of Swimming Education in Japan, Atsunori Matsui, Toshiaki Goya, Hiroyasu Satake
  • A Historical Review of Syncrhonized Swimming and the Development of the Sport in Greece, Ioanna Christodoulaki, Chrysoula Chairopoulou
  • A Historical Overview of Aquatic Therapeutic Uses in the Western Civilizations, Zaharias Vlantis, Stathis Avramidis, Emmanouel Velonakis, Alkiviadis Vatopoulos
  • References to Drowning Incidents and Aquatic Rescues in Bible, Stathis Avramidis
  • Martyrdom Drowning during the First Five Centuries of the Christian Orthodox Church, Stathis Avramidis, Vassilios Giannakidis, Stavros Patrinos, Marina Petenioti, Eleftheria Avramidou
  • Swimming and Aquatic Scenes in Hollywood Films: A Pilot Study; Drowning and Rescue related Artwork from Swimming and other Aquatic with Religious Theme; Art Depictions of Water Torture, Punishment and Homicide Drowning; Suicide Drowning Episodes in Artwork Depictions; Artwork of Swimming in Various Civilizations and Periods of History; Artwork of Drownings and Rescues in Swimming and Aquatic Emergencies; A Global Overview of Aquatics, Swimming and Drowning Myths and Legends; Artwork Depicting Historical, Religious and Fictional Drowning Incidents due to Flooding; Drowning Incidents and Aquatic Rescues Depicted in Artwork with a Military Theme, Stathis Avramidis
  • Lifeguard Training Lessons from the Past, Nancy B. White
  • The Royal Life Society – A Recipe for Rescue, Janet Wilson
  • Bathing and Swimming by Design: Canadian Public Baths 1880-1924, Eileen O’Connor
  • Virtual Museum of Objects, Documents, Archives and Souvenir Material in Official Water Polo Competitions: The Story of a Private Collection, Nikos Stavropoulos
  • An Overview of Landmark Events in the History of Water Polo: 1869-1992, Yannis Giannouris
  • Floating Memories: Brighton Swimming Club Archives 1860–Present, Paul Farrington

Book Presentations

The following 5 books were presented:

  • Swim: Why we Love the Water (2012), Lynn Sherr
  • Fighting the Current: The Rise of American Women’s Swimming, 1870-1926 (2011), Lisa Bier
  • The Evolution of Freediving (2012), Richard (“Sonny”) Tanabe
  • Synchronized Swimming: An American History (2005), Dawn Pawson Bean
  • The History of Aquatic Safety (2010), Stathis Avramidis


The following 19 films were screened:

  • Whitewash, Ted Woods
  • Sync or Swim, Cheryl Furjanic, Amanda Keropian
  • Back on Board Greg Louganis (Trailer), Cheryl Furjanic
  • How to Teach Young Children to Swim, Terje Stakset
  • On Drowning, Francesco (Frank) Pia
  • A Public Service Announcement about Drowning; Ode to (Lifesaving Joy, Stathis Avramidis
  • The Mermaids’ Club: A History of Synchronized Swimming; Sylvie Frechette: Against All Odds, Paul Carvalho
  • Five Minute Scanning Strategy, Tom Griffiths
  • The Best Aquatic Stories of Bud Greenspan, Nancy Beffa
  • 50 Year Old FRESHMAN Suzanne Heim-Bowen, Deborah Mc Donald
  • The Sunshine Olympics 1912, Jens Lind
  • Parting the waters (Trailer), Josh Waletzky, Jenny Levison
  • The 200m Breaststroke in 1936; The Olga Dorfner Vase; The Tomb of the Diver; The Etruscan Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Bruce Wigo
  • Rice and Roses Presents Coach Sakamoto, Chris Konybeare


Given the success and the outstanding responses of those that attended it, the Organizing Committee of the event, plans to soon release the date for the next IAHSFF.

IAHSFF Trailer

External links