Teacher, artist, volunteer, lifesaver … at one time or another, Peter Davis, chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol, has been all of these.
Today, as an international advocate for drowning prevention, he is
using the skills and talents developed through a variety of unique
experiences to raise awareness and improve water safety around the
A Galveston, Texas, native, Davis says his family has been part of
the community for seven generations. He began lifeguarding in high
school and joined the city beach patrol after a few years’
experience guarding at a local pool. Davis attended Trinity
University in San Antonio, where he graduated in 1987 with a
psychology degree. His intention was to become an art therapist. He
received a graduate degree in fine arts from the University of
California, Davis in 1997, but professionally he’s forged a
career in aquatics.
He took a full-time position on the Galveston Island Beach Patrol
in 1992. Since then, he has held a variety of positions in the
organization, including lifeguard supervisor, training officer and
“Part of the reason that I came into aquatics is that it
combines a lot of what I love,” says Davis, 46.
“Through aquatics, you can do a whole lot of good for people.
That’s a big pull for me.”
As a leader on the beach patrol, Davis has focused a significant
amount of energy on developing public education programs geared
toward bringing water safety information to Galveston’s large
Latino immigrant community, which has historically included a large
percentage of nonswimmers.
Creative outreach efforts that Davis helped facilitate include
school programs, camps, and Spanish-language television media
Right after college, he spent time teaching in Botswana, Africa. He
says that experience showed him what it means to be part of a
The lesson stayed with him, and in 2001 he facilitated an exchange
program between the Galveston Island Beach Patrol and Vera Cruz,
Mexico. A year later he helped establish a beach lifeguarding
program in Venezuela. Since then, both programs have continued to
grow, and today there are well-trained guards on the beaches in
Mexico and Venezuela, helping to further spread the water safety
message in their communities.
In addition to those efforts, Davis is secretary general - Americas
Region for the International Lifesaving Federation, focusing on
building similar sustainable programs throughout North and South
America. He’s also involved with the United States Lifesaving
Association, currently serving as vice president.
Davis recognized the need for effective communication early in his
career and in working with the various Spanish-speaking
communities, he became reasonably fluent. Looking ahead, he hopes
to foster better communication between various international
stakeholder groups, to help address global drowning rates. That
means creating connections between various lifeguarding and
water-safety groups and partnerships with agencies outside of
aquatics, such as public health organizations.
“The lifeguard community has a skill set in a certain area,
but it’s a very small piece of the global drowning epidemic
puzzle,” Davis says. “We have to have an overall master