Anglia RNLI lifesaver prepares to cross the English Channel – on a paddleboard

Lifeboats News Release

A lifesaver for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Suffolk is limbering up for a challenge that will see him cross the English Channel – on a paddleboard.

Nick Ayers, Lifeguard Supervisor for the RNLI, will attempt to cross from Dungeness to Boulogne this month, by lying or kneeling on a paddleboard and propelling himself  using only his hands.

The challenge is to raise funds for the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea, following an extremely busy summer of rescues and assisting people on the UK and Ireland’s beaches.

Foregoing the more common feat of swimming the Channel, Nick chose to cross the water in a manner more akin to RNLI lifeguarding. He said: ‘I’ll be using a paddleboard similar to the rescue boards our lifeguards use on some 200-plus beaches, to raise awareness of the amazing work they do. The board that I will use is a 14ft long foam and composite board.

‘In a rescue, lifeguards either lie flat or kneel on the rescue board, and use their hands to paddle swiftly out to a casualty – it’s faster than swimming so it enables us to reach people in distress more quickly. Plus we can put a casualty onto the board to bring them back to shore.

‘That said, we don’t usually use them for very long in a rescue, because we try to get people back to the safety of the shore as fast as we can. So paddling for a prolonged period of several hours is going to be pretty hard going!’

This method of paddleboarding – lying flat or kneeling – is known as ‘prone’ paddling, as opposed to stand-up paddleboarding which has grown in popularity in recent years.

The 46km distance should, according to Nick, take between 6-8 hours, but tides and conditions could massively increase this estimate. Nick continued: ‘As well as raising funds for the RNLI, this will be valuable practice for me, as I’d like to take part in various long distance events in later years. You have to have a certain number of hours under your belt to qualify for high profile events, such as the “Molokai to Oahu” crossing which is 106km.

Nick, 25, who lives in Pakefield, Lowestoft, will obviously observe RNLI advice and will wear a lifejacket and carry a means of calling for help. Just like channel swimmers, he will be accompanied by a pilot boat the whole way to ensure his safety. He has been allocated a slot during the week commencing Monday 19 September.

To find out more about Nick’s plans to paddleboard the English Channel, or to sponsor him and help support the RNLI, visit

RNLI media contacts

• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252  [email protected]
• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.