The Newquay family saving lives at sea
The four Timson siblings - Lewis (36), Harry (23), Georgie (21) and Sonny (18) - are all working for the RNLI to keep beaches in Newquay safe this summer.
The family trade
The Timson family’s connection with the RNLI was sparked 20 years ago when, after countless family holidays to the Cornish coast, they decided to make the move from Market Harborough down to Newquay.
At 17 years old, Lewis - the eldest of the four siblings - began working as a private lifeguard at Watergate Bay, making him the first lifeguard in the family. After the RNLI’s successful lifeguard pilot scheme across South West beaches in 2001, Lewis became an RNLI lifeguard at Watergate Bay and he has now worked for the charity for 19 years.
Contrary to the norm, rather than Lewis following in his father’s footsteps to become a lifeguard, his dad followed in his! With Lewis patrolling Watergate Bay as an RNLI lifeguard, his father Vince Timson soon signed up as an RNLI volunteer and spent eight years as a lifeguard and a lifeguard supervisor in Newquay.
Over the coming years, the rest of the family followed suit. Having surfed on Newquay beaches from a young age, the siblings all had strong water skills, which made becoming a lifeguard a smooth transition.
At the age of 18, Georgie completed her lifeguard training and began working as a casual lifeguard – now 21, she is on her second full season.
‘It’s really nice that we all have this in common. As kids we grew up surfing and being at the beach and now we are all lifeguards – I guess it runs in the family!’
Sonny, the youngest of the four siblings, became the next Timson family recruit. At 18, he is working his second season as a lifeguard on Newquay beaches.
Harry joined the family trade earlier this year. After completing his lifeguard training when he was 16, Harry then took time out to focus on his career as a free surfer, which gave him opportunities to travel around the world and take to the waves in places like Costa Rica and California.
On beginning work as a lifeguard, he said:
‘Starting out as a casual lifeguard this year is ideal for me - it’s a great way to learn new skills but it also suits my schedule because it means I still have the time to practice surfing. I’m often on the beach anyway so it’s a great environment to work in.’
Although Georgie and Sonny are both working full-time this summer, the seasonal aspect of lifeguarding is a huge bonus as they have their winters free.
‘I enjoy activities which revolve around the sea so as well as lifeguarding I also like surfing, fishing and coasteering - which are all perfect for Newquay in the summer – and then I am going to go travelling to find good surf in the winter.’
Beginning the position in January this year, Lewis is now the Lead Lifeguard Supervisor for Newquay, which is a full-time, year-round position managing the RNLI’s lifeguard service in the area. On top of this, Lewis generously gives his time as a volunteer crew member with Newquay lifeboat.
Saving lives at sea
With this range of experience, the siblings have been involved in a variety of rescues which have put their lifesaving skills into practice. Over his career as a lifeguard and volunteer lifeboat crew member, Lewis has been involved in countless rescues but said the ones that always stand out are those involving children:
‘I was in command at the scene of a sand hole collapse last year at Fistral - a young boy and his brother had dug a deep hole in soft sand, and it had collapsed with one of the boys in the bottom.
‘There was still a large body of sand above the boy’s head which, if it had collapsed during our extraction, would have killed him. The extraction took a long time but thankfully was successful and the boy was safe.’
Georgie also recounted a memorable rescue from last year:
‘Last year me and another lifeguard did a mass rescue of six people, adults and children, after they got caught in a rip current. Fortunately, they were all fine afterwards, but some said that they had only been to the beach twice before which really showed how important it is that lifeguards are on hand.’
Now 18, Sonny began rescuing people before he was an adult:
‘When I was working at Lusty Glaze last year, in one incident there was 3-4ft surf and I could see that the waves were washing two men onto the rocks. I swam out to them with a rescue tube and brought them both back to shore.’
As part of their induction training, all RNLI lifeguards complete a casualty care course so that they can respond to first aid incidents. Although the start of Harry’s first season was fairly quiet, he put his casualty care skills into action when visiting the surf and music festival Sea Sessions in Ireland in June.
‘I wasn’t at the festival as a lifeguard but when I went to get food off the beach, I heard a girl start coughing and it became clear that she was choking. I did the Heimlich manoeuvre, which dislodged the food that was causing her to choke. It was quite scary responding to an incident like that for the first time, but it also showed how important lifeguarding skills are, in and out of the water.’
While for the most part the siblings work at different beaches along Newquay’s coastline, events like training exercises sometimes present the opportunity to not only practice their lifesaving skills, but also have a quick family reunion.
To become a lifeguard, you need a National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ) or equivalent. Courses for this qualification run all over the country at different times of the year. To find your nearest, visit: https://www.rlss.org.uk/national-vocational-beach-lifeguard-qualification
Notes to editors
- Please find attached pictures of the Timson siblings at a training exercise on Mawgan Porth beach. L-R Sonny, Harry, Georgie, Lewis. Credit RNLI/Tamsin Hart.
RNLI media contacts
For more information on the RNLI please visit rnli.org. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre rnli.org/news-and-media.
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
Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries