Eoin’s story: 'It was just me, the sea and the board'
Eoin Maguire set out for an evening paddleboard from Blackrock near Dublin, but he soon found himself in danger. Here, Eoin shares his story and lessons learned.
The weather was fairly windy but, as I walked down to the pier, it began dying down. I let my sister know that I was going out by myself and the exact time I entered the water – so she knew how long to allow before checking on me.
I thought I'd timed my entry for an incoming tide, but I'd misjudged it by half an hour or so. As I headed out, the sea picked up again. I turned to look back and could see the tide had taken me too far from the shore – 500m or so.
At first I thought: 'Just keep calm and paddle back.' I started paddling against the wind, but the outgoing tide was pulling me. I tried to do a 180° turn, but every time I came broadside to the waves, they'd pivot the board back out to sea.
I wasn't sure what to do. It was just me, the sea and the board.
It was frightening. Nothing I tried was working. I was getting progressively more worried. I remembered I had my phone in my bag, which I prepared to break out as a last resort.
As my panic peaked, the sea prompted me: it pushed me off the board. Once in the water, I felt at ease. I didn't have any drag – it was only the waves I had to counter. I made a beeline for shore, pulling the board behind me on my ankle leash. I was finally making progress.
I swam for about half an hour and made it within 150m. But now I was tired and cold. I climbed onto the board to rest. I'd held onto it as a flotation device, and because it'd be a big patch of red against a blue sea if anyone needed to find me – much easier to spot than a pale Irish boy!
I held onto the board as a flotation device ... it'd be a big patch of red against a blue sea if anyone needed to find me
Help at hand
Looking to the shore, I saw someone in a high-vis jacket. I waved and they waved back. I was sure they'd call for help.
Unbeknown to me, the person in the high vis was a waiting paramedic – some other people had seen me struggling earlier and called for help. Within 2 minutes, I saw the lifeboat. Pulling me onboard, they untied my paddleboard and very kindly told me they'd go back for it.
Back on shore, the RNLI handed me over to paramedics. Once they were happy that my body temperature was slowly recovering, I went to St Vincent's Hospital for checks. Luckily, nothing happened to me other than feeling exceptionally tired.
Back in the water
I feel very thankful. That anyone noticed me struggling in the cold. That someone called for help. That the crew were there. That I could just unburden myself onto them! I'm very lucky they got to me so quickly.
The day after my rescue, I called the lifeboat station and one of the guys said: 'I hope this hasn't scared you out of the sea.' I told him that it hasn't, just that my habits now are a bit smarter.
If my story helps people think twice when going out to sea, it'd be great.
Safety tips: What are the extra precautions Eoin takes now?
- I respect the sea state: I go before high tide, so it's not pulling me back out. Generally I'll wait for clear, calm days.
- I keep my phone close to hand: I had mine in a bag but the RNLI were kind enough to give me a waterproof pouch that you hang around your neck so it's easier to access in an emergency.
- I wear a buoyancy aid: On that particular day, I planned to stay in shallow water and didn't think I'd need a buoyancy aid, but I was wrong.
- I stay within my depth: I stay in waist-depth water, so things are less likely to get really out of control.
- I wear a wetsuit when the water's cold: I wasn't wearing a wetsuit on that day in May – just togs and a T-shirt. I'd been swimming in the sea from January to April. I think this helped me last a bit longer in the cold, but my confidence in the water temperature got away from me.
- I go with someone: I find paddleboarding most enjoyable with others, so I've since gone out with my siblings every time.
Expert review: ‘it can happen to anybody’
Alan Keville, Helm at Laoghaire Lifeboat Station, says: 'Eoin's life was in danger. He was being pushed out to sea with the offshore breeze and it was blowing force 6. When we reached him, he was showing signs of hypothermia and was very thankful. He was easy to find, with the help of the Dun Laoghaire Coast Unit on shore. It's all the training – week-in and week-out – that makes for seamless rescues.
'By telling his story, Eoin's helping us get across the message that it can happen to anybody. Never underestimate the sea and how quickly a situation can change. He's helping to share key safety messages, like holding onto your board if you get into trouble, having a means of calling for help within easy reach and wearing a buoyancy aid. This really could save your life.'
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