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Rescued Kayaker Dads Survive to Enjoy This Year’s Father’s Day

Lifeboats News Release

Water-loving dads have told the RNLI they are looking forward to spending Father’s Day with their loved ones more than ever this year, after being rescued by RNLI volunteer crew when they got into difficulty while kayaking.

Keen kayakers, father and son Paul and Joe Rowlands, went out in February 2018 off the coast of Anglesey, for an afternoon of paddling. However, it capsized and they became separated from their boat. They made the decision to leave their kayaks and tried to make their way to some rocks, but with Paul slipping in and out of consciousness, 13-year old Joe had to carry his father over the rocky terrain to help keep him alive.

Luckily for them, mum Julie, rang the emergency services. Paul says, ‘If it wasn’t for my son and the RNLI, I wouldn’t be here to celebrate Father’s Day with my wife and three children. Joe is my hero. I love kayaking, but I’m so wary of how quickly the tide and conditions can change. I always take a means of calling for help. Better to be safe than sorry.’

Kayaking can be a risky sport, and tragically, an average of three kayakers per year die while on the water, with hundreds of others needed to be rescued.*

Kayakers don’t often have a means of calling for help on them and have relied on passing vessels or people on the shore to raise the alarm when they’ve found themselves in difficulty.

People of varying levels of experience can find themselves in difficulty, as the environment and conditions can be unpredictable. Many do not carry a means of calling for help, and those that do, often store their device to keep it dry – but crucially this is often out of reach.

Jon Oxenham, Community Safety Product Manager at the RNLI advocates taking a device with you when on the water. ‘Kayaking is a fun and popular sport, but it’s so easy to be caught out by rapidly changing conditions, which is why everyone needs to carry a means of calling for help when on the water and keep it on them within easy reach. It’s not unusual to get separated from your boat, and if you’re more than an arms’ length away from your phone, VHF radio or PLB, it’s no use at all. And no one should stow their device when on the water, potentially putting the “safety” of a mobile above their own life!’

Safety tips and information about kayaking safely can be found on https//

RNLI rescues involving kayaking fathers:

South West

Holiday maker Justin Ferguson went out on a lone fishing trip in his kayak off the coast of St Agnes, in Cornwall in July 2017. His vessel took on water after a large wave hit him. He didn’t have a means of calling for help, but luckily someone from the National Coastwatch Institution spotted him and called 999 for the Coastguard.

Justin comments, ‘I didn’t expect to get in that situation and it crossed my mind that I’d never see my family again, which was frightening. I always take my mobile phone with me and keep it on me whenever I go kayaking or I’m on the water.’

55 year-old experienced sea kayaker, Steve Jones, went out in a group near Durlston in Dorset in 2015, but he became seriously ill. A member of the group called the emergency services and the RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew arrived. Following his recovery, Steve was told his chances of survival had been 20% and that the group being able to call for help when they did probably saved his life. Steve felt indebted to the crew at Swanage RNLI Lifeboat Station and, in April this year, handed over £2,000 to them which he’d fundraised.

He says, ‘My children tell me they love me every day after the incident, so Father’s Day is 365 days a year for me! As an experienced kayaker, I cannot overstate how important it is to carry a means of communication with you and keep it on you – if we couldn’t call for help when I fell ill, I probably wouldn’t be here today.’

*data taken from WAID

Notes to editors

  • Photographs of Paul and Joe Rowlands are available to be downloaded

  • Steve Jones and Justin Ferguson are available to interview. Read Steve’s story in full here and Justin’s story here

  • In 2015, there were 311 RNLI lifeboat launches to kayakers, 23 launches in the Republic of Ireland (data taken from RNLI return of service data UK and RoI for 2015 (2015 Op Stats)). RNLI lifeguards responded to 138 kayaking incidents (data taken from RNLI lifeguard main incident data, UK only, 2015)

  • WAID is the UK’s WAter Incident Database and brings together a wide range of sources within the UK search and rescue region

  • PLB is an abbreviation for Personal Locator Beacon

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Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

Paul Rowlands in his formal fire fighter uniform, standing with his left arm around his 13 year old son, Joe Rowlands

Paul Rowlands

Father and son Paul and Joe Rowlands
Head and shoulder shot of dark haired 13 year old Joe Rowlands, who helped keep his dad alive after their kayak capsized.

Paul Rowlands

13-year old, Joe Rowlands, who helped keep his dad alive after their kayak capsized.

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 over 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.

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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 or by email.