Merit Badges and Awards

LDS Camp offers all ten aquatics merit badges, including Swimming, Lifesaving, Canoeing, Kayaking, Rowing, Small-Boat Sailing, Water Sports, Motorboating, Scuba Diving, and Whitewater. Special awards, such as the Polar Bear Swim and Mile Swim, are very popular. Most classes require successfully passing the swim check, but others do not require any prior swimming experience. Safety is stressed at every level and is an integral part of all aquatics instruction.

Swimming Merit Badge

In Swimming Merit Badge, you will practice several different stroke techniques, until you can swim each stroke proficiently. You'll learn basic rescue techniques that can be used in a pinch to help a drowning victim. You'll also practice surface dives and standing dives. Swimming is a required merit badge for the Eagle Scout Rank, making it a very popular merit badge for first-year campers.

Lifesaving Merit Badge

Lifesaving builds on the skills learned in the Swimming Merit Badge. It is also an Eagle-required merit badge. You'll learn more advanced rescue techniques, such as how to safely perform an in-water rescue. You'll learn CPR, first aid, and how to care for a victim with a suspected spinal injury. Countless lives have been saved as a result of lifesaving instruction over the Boy Scouts' long history.

Canoeing, Kayaking, Rowing, and Small-Boat Sailing

These small watercraft are a true delight and make for very popular merit badges at the waterfront. You'll learn how to properly select and use boating equipment and safety gear. Scouts that achieve proficiency in operating a craft can take one out during free time. Paddling or sailing across the lake can be a truly enjoyable pastime!

Water Sports, Motorboating, Scuba Diving, and Whitewater

Rounding out our aquatics merit badges are these four, typically intended for older Scouts. These badges may or may not be offered each year depending on logistics, so check the Merit Badge Catalog to see if any sessions are being offered.

Polar Bear Swim

Want to know what it's like to be a polar bear? Simply meet us down at the waterfront bright and early at 6 am for a refreshing morning swim, three days in a row, to earn the patch. Early in the morning, the water is warmer than the surrounding air, often resulting in a thick layer of fog. Bring a warm towel!

Mile Swim

Sign up for Mile Swim and you'll earn the Polar Bear too, because we're doing laps each morning at 6 am to work up to a full mile on Friday. On average, only a dozen campers complete the full mile each year—so earning this award is truly an accomplishment.

Snorkeling BSA, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Scuba BSA, Kayaking BSA

These awards require less time to complete than a full merit badge, and are a popular choice for Scouts who are looking for a class to take during free time.

The Swim Check

When I arrived at my very first scout camp in Michigan at the age of eleven, I was horrified when I learned I would have to swim in the lake for my swim check. I was totally unprepared for the new experience. If I could have at least practiced in a pool first, I would have had a much easier time. Today, I train lifeguards and have swam miles upon miles in both lakes and pools, and the only difference is that a lake is not filled with hair and old bandaids. Well, and there's the fish, but, I've never seen a fish while swimming in a lake. But I've seen lots of gross stuff in swimming pools.

All Scouts and leaders must attempt the swim check before participating in aquatics activities. After checking in at camp, your entire troop will go to the waterfront. The staff will explain the rules of the waterfront, such as the Buddy System. They'll also describe what you will do for your swim check. Then, you'll line up on the dock for the swim check.

The lifeguard on the dock will go over how the swim check will work one last time and answer any questions. Then, on a signal from the lifeguard, you'll start your swim check:

  1. Jump feet first into deep water.
  2. Swim on the surface 75 yards (3 times across a lap pool) using front crawl, side stroke, breaststroke, or trudgen.
  3. Swim on your back for 25 yards (1 time across a lap pool) using an easy resting backstroke, such as elementary backstroke.
  4. After the swim, rest by floating on your back.

You can't stop to rest during the swim. And when you float, it's okay if your feet hang down—only your face needs to be out of the water. If you don't complete the swim check on your first try, you can try again during free time. We also offer swimming classes during periods 3 and 4.

The Buddy System

At all times at camp, each Scout should be with a buddy. This is especially important at the waterfront. The buddy system means that you and your buddy arrive at the waterfront together, swim together, and leave together. No one is ever to be alone. Buddies watch out for each other, and if a Scout has trouble in the water, starts drowning, or goes missing, his buddy can alert a lifeguard right away. When followed and enforced, the buddy system virtually guarantees that anyone in trouble in the water will be recognized immediately.

To enforce the buddy system, lifeguards will regularly conduct buddy checks. During a buddy check, Scouts have fifteen seconds to get out of the water and hold their buddy's hand in the air. Lifeguards will count all the swimmers to confirm no one is missing. Most buddy checks last under a minute, and then the lifeguards will signal that you can get back in the water, or that the waterfront is closing, or so forth.

BSA Lifeguard

For experienced swimmers aged 15 and up, the challenging BSA Lifeguard course can be a truly rewarding experience. After completing a pre-course swimming test, students will learn lifeguarding surveillance, rescue techniques, first aid, CPR, and will even get to participate in lifeguarding duties alongside the staff. Participants who complete the 30+ hour course and pass the final written and practical exams will receive the prestigious BSA Lifeguard Award. Upon course completion, students will also receive American Red Cross certification in Waterfront Lifeguarding and CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer, qualifying them for lifeguarding jobs at pools and lakes. And, perhaps most importantly, they will receive an invitation to return to LDS Camp the following year as a member of the aquatics staff.

Youth can sign up for BSA Lifeguard during merit badge registration. Adults can sign up by contacting the aquatics director.

For an in-depth look, read A Day in the Life of a Lifeguard.

The Aquatics Staff

Like the rest of the LDS Camp staff, the lifeguards and instructors at the waterfront are all volunteers. Many of the youth and adults that serve at the waterfront received their first swimming and lifesaving training as Scouts at LDS Camp. These staff are trained professionals, and many have lifeguarding jobs outside of LDS Camp.

2016 LDS Regional Scout Camp Aquatics Staff. Left to right, standing: Larry Owens, Tom Hawkins, Jack Allen, Camron Armistead, Matthew Cotter, Matt Coton, Matthew Campbell, Tyler Weight, Zen Weight, Robert LeDuc, Ben Guzman, Lyle Badger; kneeling: Travis Higbee, Bruce Jacobs, Ethan Wimmer, Duncan Homer, Jason Armistead, Ben Johnson, Ryan LeDuc, Robert Neu, Sr., Gregory Anderson; sitting: Blake Olsen, Sam Meppen, Dawson Homer, Thomas Armistead, Brian Higbee, Hyrum Lower, Conner Lee, Zachery Higgins, Parker Johns

Larry Owens has served as Aquatics Director of the LDS Regional Scout Camp since 1995. He is also chairman of the Grand Teton Council Aquatics Committee and is a member of the BSA National Camping School Aquatics Faculty and the 2019 World Jamboree Scuba Staff. Under his leadership, literally tens of thousands have received training in lifeguarding, water safety, swimming, first aid, CPR, and more.