Paragon Awards                           Presented By

David Bell (USA)

2018 Paragon Award / Recreational Swimming


David Bell has been a contributor to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) national aquatics program for over 40 years. During his high school and college years, he spent 13 summers on the aquatics staff at various scout camps, personally teaching swimming, water rescue, and boating skills to hundreds of youths. He became an instructor trainer for BSA camp aquatics directors in 1974 and continues to teach at those week-long schools. The hundreds of adults he has trained have in turn provided safe swimming programs for tens of thousands of youths.


The BSA uses outdoor adventure programs to support its mission of youth character development and values-based leadership training. Activities in, on and under the water are a significant subset of the programs that attract youth and retain youth in the program. For example, scouts earn over 60,000 Swimming Merit Badges per year. Since 1979, when he was asked to rewrite the Lifesaving Merit Badge pamphlet, David has supported those BSA programs at the national level. He has been an Aquatics Specialist on the BSA National Health and Safety Committee since 1996 and became a Charter Member of the BSA National Aquatics Task Force in 2005. He was a major contributor in the redevelopment of the BSA Lifeguard professional lifeguard certification in 2008.


He conceived and authored “Aquatics Supervision, A Leader’s Guide to Youth Swimming and Boating Activities” in 2009, which is the text for Swimming and Water Rescue training for adults. In 2012, he wrote, directed, and helped edit the Safe Swim Defense online training video and the associated video on Remote (Swimming) Area Setup. He designed the “Water Reality” obstacle course of large inflatables used at the 2013 and 2017 BSA National Jamborees which had over 10,000 participants over the nine-day program in 2017.


Bell’s involvement with BSA aquatics has led to interactions with other agencies. He has been the BSA representative to the U.S. Lifeguard Standards Coalition and Water Safety USA. He was a sounding board member or subject member expert for the 2007, 2012, and 2017 revisions of the American Red Cross Lifeguarding Program. He was a member of the Technical Support Committee for Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision of the Council for the Model Aquatics Health Code. He is on the Board of Directors of the American Canoe Association.


David swims a mile three times a week when not traveling. He holds current certifications for BSA Aquatics Instructor, BSA Lifeguard, YMCA Lifeguard, American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor and PADI Open Water Diver. Bell has a BS and PhD degree in Physics.

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