RNLI lifeguards in Cornwall rescue multiple bathers in challenging conditions

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI lifeguards in Cornwall had a busy weekend along the coast performing large mass rescues mainly due to flash rip currents and strong winds. The RNLI is continuing to urge people to visit a lifeguarded beach if they head to the coast, as strong winds and large waves are predicted again this week.


Lifeguards carrying out the rescue in large surf at Perranporth on Saturday

The importance of this was highlighted on Sunday (23 August) when Porthmeor RNLI lifeguards rescued 30 bathers caught in a flash rip current and required additional assistance from three surf school instructors. Four lifeguards were rescue ready on water’s edge due to the incoming tide and strong winds producing large waves, and they chose to launch the rescue watercraft (RWC) in preparation.

Lifeguards and surf instructors paddled out to the bathers in difficulty and used their swell boards and rescue boards to keep people afloat and assist them to shore. The RWC was also required to ferry bathers back to shore on the back of the sled and everybody was safely returned to shore and given safety advice.

James Symons, Porthmeor senior lifeguards says:

‘During the flooding tide, as a team we made sure we always had substantial numbers on proactive water patrols and were continuously using the PA system to advise bathers to stay waist to chest deep and always keep hold of your board or floatation device.

Perranporth RNLI lifeguards on Saturday (22 August) were involved in a rescue that likely saved the lives of three bathers who appeared to be in serious difficulty. The lifeguards assessed the situation and decided to launch three means of rescue equipment to help each individual; the inshore rescue boat (IRB), rescue watercraft (RWC) and a rescue board all went to the scene as quickly as possible.

Tackling large dumping waves and strong rip currents as they approached the bathers, they collected one casualty each and returned them all safely to shore. The young boy who was returned to shore on the rescue board appeared very shaken and quoted, ‘I thought I was going to die.’

In south east Cornwall, lifeguards at Tregonhawke carried out three serious rip current rescues over the weekend, following on from a mass rescue on Thursday in which it’s thought eight lives were saved.

At Harlyn Bay, near Padstow, lifeguards performed a mass rescue on Sunday. Lifeguards advise all swimmers to go between the red and yellow flagged area but the entered the water outside of the safe area and got into difficulty.

Ollie Shilston, Lead Lifeguard Supervisor, says:

With the current conditions we have been experiencing of strong winds and large surf, it is more important than ever to remember to visit a lifeguarded beach and stay in the red and yellow flagged areas if you are swimming or bodyboarding.’

We know that these conditions can increase the risk of strong rip currents. If you find yourself caught in a rip, follow this advice:

  • Don’t try to swim against it, you will quickly get exhausted

  • If you can stand, wade don’t swim

  • Swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore

  • Always raise your hand and shout for help.

The South West is continuing to experience challenging sea conditions due to Storm Francis. The charity urges everyone to keep back and stay safe. Do not enter the water if the red flag is flying and remember that if there are no flags, there are no lifeguards. If you see somebody in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Notes to editors

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Marianne Quinn, Regional Media Officer on Marianne_Quinn@rnli.org.uk or 07786 668847, or Becky Bright, Regional Media Engagement Placement on Becky_Bright@rnli.org.uk or 07375855897, or RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or via pressoffice@rnli.org.uk.

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.