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RNLI Lifeguard Harry Barea

Meet Harry, an RNLI lifeguard in Newquay, Cornwall, who recommends ‘volunteering with the RNLI or joining a surf lifesaving club to gain the experience and confidence required to keep people safe’.

A head and shoulders shot of RNLI Lifeguard Harry Barea. Harry is smiling and wearing a blue RNLI woolly hat, a yellow RNLI polo short, and sunscreen across his nose and cheeks. The beach in the background is deliberately blurred.

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

RNLI Lifeguard Harry Barea

What made you want to become a lifeguard?

It was my father that inspired me to lifeguard initially. Listening to stories of lifeguarding during the council days motivated me to apply with the RNLI. I was brought up through the surf lifesaving clubs in my area; naturally progressing into lifeguarding with my friends over the summer periods. I am very grateful to live so close to the sea and have the beach on my doorstep.

How long have you been lifeguarding with the RNLI?

I’ve been an RNLI lifeguard for 5 years, including 1 year as a volunteer lifeguard.

What are your highlights over that time?

Meeting amazing people, making lasting friendships and working with people who are passionate about the ocean and saving lives at sea. Also having the opportunity to travel overseas and lifeguard in different areas around the world.

What skills do you need to become a lifeguard?

Having an International Life Saving (ILS) certificate in beach lifeguarding is essential when applying to be an RNLI lifeguard. The role requires a high level of water experience, fitness, and willingness to take responsibility for the safety of hundreds of beach users. 

I strongly recommend volunteering with the RNLI or joining a surf lifesaving club to gain the experience and confidence required to keep people safe. You can find your nearest surf lifesaving club with these governing bodies:

Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK)

Surf Life Saving GB (SLSGB)

Surf Life Saving Wales (SLSA Wales)

Describe what you do as an RNLI lifeguard

I assist with the daily operation and running of the beach. I take an active role in identifying potential hazards and maintaining a safe bathing area. This includes minimising risks, rescuing people, dealing with various first-aid incidents, educating the public, and working closely with other emergency services.

The role can vary depending on the beach, the natural environment and hazards involved. For example, some beaches are more dangerous than others, and some beaches require greater people management and first-aid skills.

What do you do in between seasons?

Alongside lifeguarding, I have previously spent the winter periods studying at university to complete my undergraduate degree. Before pursuing a career in teaching, I’m allowing some time over the winter to lifeguard overseas and gain some life experience. 

This winter [2023/2024], I’m travelling to the Sunshine Coast and working in Noosa as part of the Australian Lifeguard Service. Last winter [2022/2023], I worked a season in New Zealand, and I even made the news for my efforts in assisting with the severe flooding in Auckland, working closely with their flood rescue teams and emergency services.

You can read more in this news story: Newquay RNLI lifeguard helps rescue 69 people in New Zealand flood response

In my experience, working overseas as a lifeguard is a great way to develop your lifeguarding skills and gain valuable life experience along the way. The RNLI’s outstanding training has equipped me with the skills and knowledge to work anywhere in the world. I’m honoured to represent the charity and its values, and be part of the RNLI’s vision to save every one.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in becoming an RNLI lifeguard but is a little unsure?

I would recommend volunteering as an RNLI lifeguard before applying for a paid position. This is a great opportunity to learn the basics of lifeguarding, understand the dangers involved and develop valuable lifesaving skills to rescue people and stay safe in the ocean. Joining your local surf lifesaving club [as linked above] would also teach you valuable skills and prepare you physically before becoming an RNLI lifeguard.

Thinking about becoming a lifeguard? 

Find out more about what’s involved and how to qualify.