Surfer saved from drowning on her birthday

Lifeguards News Release

In the space of a week, RNLI lifeguard Tim McDowell saved the lives of two people in two separate incidents, one involving a person stuck in a rip current on their birthday and another swimmer who was suffering from the effects of cold water.

RNLI Rich Ward

RNLI Lifeguard Tim McDowell at Boscombe beach

On Friday (11 May) Tim was monitoring the state of the sea at Boscombe East beach when he began to see some strong rips forming around the groyne. He could see over at Boscombe West beach, where lifeguards aren’t patrolling until later in the summer, that two female surfers were drifting dangerously towards the groynes.

As Tim was making his way over to warn the surfers, he saw one of them go into the rip current. They had let go of their surf board and the leash had become tangled in the groyne. Tim quickly grabbed a rescue tube and darted into the sea.

Tim said:

‘There was a really strong rip current running. In her panic, the casualty lost her board and was trying to swim against the current. She was scared but I knew the best way to get her out and not get caught in it myself. At the same time I made sure her friend kept the other side of the groyne where there was no rip.

‘Thankfully the casualty managed to grab hold of the rescue tube and I was able to get her to the shoreline. Another lifeguard met us there and we went through the usual checks. She was unharmed and able to enjoy the rest of her birthday!’

Less than a week later at around 3pm on Thursday (17 May), Tim was patrolling Bournemouth East beach and keeping watch over swimmers in between the red and yellow flags. He spotted a woman who had been in the water for some time and appeared to be struggling to swim back to shore.

He immediately grabbed a rescue board and made his way through the waves to the swimmer in trouble and managed to bring her onto the board and back to shore.

Tim said:

‘The waves were big that day so it was essential that I had the benefit of the tower for extra elevation to see further out to sea. Looking through binoculars I saw the woman had been in the water for some time and was in trouble. She had begun to get cramp and was suffering from being in the cold water for so long.

‘I managed to get her back to the beach where I was joined by another lifeguard and together we warmed her up and she made a full recovery. Thankfully, the woman was swimming in between the red and yellow flags so I was able to spot her straight away.’

Mike Winter, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor, said:

‘These were two lifesaving rescues carried out by Tim and the team. They worked quickly and professionally, putting all of their training into action, so that there was a positive outcome. These two rescues highlight the importance of coming to a lifeguarded beach and swimming in between the red and yellow flags.’

In the UK, the majority of RNLI lifeguard incidents involve rip currents. If you’re caught in a rip current, the RNLI’s advice is to:
  • Stay calm
  • Float on your back to regulate your breathing until you can swim to shore or call for help
  • If you can stand, wade, don’t swim
  • Keep hold of your board or inflatable to help you float
  • Raise your hand and shout for help
  • Never try to swim directly against the rip or you'll get exhausted
  • Swim parallel to the beach until free of the rip, then make for shore

RNLI lifeguards will be returning to the following beaches from this weekend for the 2018 season:

  • Southbourne, Fisherman’s Walk, Boscombe West, Durley Chine, Alum Chine, Branksome Chine, Shore Road and Swanage.

These beaches will join Boscombe East, Bournemouth East and Bournemouth West and Sandbanks which already have lifeguards patrolling. The RNLI has just launched its national water safety campaign Respect the Water to help people stay safe throughout the summer:


Media contacts

For more information please contact: Oliver Wrynne-Simpson, National Media Officer on 07795 127351 or or the Press Office on 01202 336789.

RNLI Rich Ward

RNLI lifeguard Tim McDowell

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.