RNLI lifeguards finish patrols for 2020, after ‘a summer like no other’

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI lifeguards hung up their wetsuits yesterday (1 November) as they finished their safety patrols on all beaches across the south west for 2020.

Lifeguard attending to casualty on beach

Sam Chamberlain

RNLI lifeguard doing a casualty care training scenario with PPE

With unpredictable weather conditions at this time of year, the charity is reminding people using the coast over the winter to take extra care and to heed safety advice.

After what has been called 'a summer like no other’, the charity has released photos taken by RNLI lifeguard Sam Chamberlain which capture lifeguarding in 2020. Changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic saw lifeguards adopting socially distanced patrols and PPE for casualty care. On top of this, lifeguards dealt with record numbers on the region's beaches and summer storms that saw lifeguards save around 20 lives in just one week.*

Sam Chamberlain, senior RNLI lifeguard at Perranporth, describes the inspiration behind capturing the 2020 lifeguard season on camera:

‘I hadn’t really picked up a camera since I studied media at college around 12 years ago but living in this new world of lifeguarding seemed so surreal that I thought I needed to capture some moments from the season, so I kept the camera close.

‘A pandemic is something that none of us has experienced before and having to keep your distance and wear masks around people that you’ve known and worked with for years felt very strange.

‘This summer has by far been the busiest that I have experienced during my 10 seasons as a lifeguard. The packed beaches, the strength of the rip currents, and making sure the service was Covid secure were all big challenges, but despite this we still had an amazing season and the lifeguards provided an excellent service for their community.’

Tom Mansell, RNLI Regional Lifesaving Lead says:

‘It has been an extraordinary season in so many ways. Our lifeguards have continuously gone the extra mile day in and day out to keep people safe on the region's beaches. While some years they may have had respite from the crowds on a rainy day, the sheer volume of people in the west country and the need to pre-book other attractions has meant people have flocked to the beaches day after day from May all the way through to this October half term.

‘During one week alone in August, lifeguards saved around 20 lives on our beaches. I am extremely proud of the resilience and professionalism these teams have shown, they have proved to be integral to our beach communities and while our figures show the rescues and lives saved, we know the conversations and advice they have given while on duty will have helped save many, many more lives this summer.’

Although the lifeguards have packed up until spring, RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews continue to be on call 365 days a year ready to respond to emergencies when their pager goes off. But to avoid putting yourself and our volunteers at risk, please heed the following safety advice this winter:

- Check tides, weather and sea conditions and be realistic about your level of ability. Winter is not the time to push your limits.

- Avoid going in the water alone. If you are planning to go for a kayak, surf or swim, always go with someone, have someone on the shore or at least let somebody know where you will be and what time you expect to be back.

- If you are an inexperienced water user, avoid isolated beaches that have a reduced footfall so that if you do get into difficulty, there is a chance someone will see you and raise the alarm.

- Take note of the signage at the entrance to the beach which will indicate any localised hazards. If in doubt, ask a local for advice.

- Always wear appropriate equipment, this includes a winter wetsuit, wetsuit hood, boots and gloves – the colder you get, the weaker your body will become, increasing your risk of getting into difficulty. We’d also suggest having warm clothing, a hot drink and a woolly hat for afterwards.

- If you find yourself in trouble, never abandon your craft, it will keep you afloat until help arrives.

- If you see somebody in difficulty, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Stay on scene until they arrive as this will aid the rescue, but please do not attempt to rescue them yourself.


Notes to Editors

· *Week of 15 to 23 August 2020 provisional figures from initial paperwork collated during the 2020 season, full and official stats are not available right now.

· Photos are available to download from the RNLI’s news centre here – credit Sam Chamberlain

· To support the RNLI’s lifesavers, go to: www.rnli.org/donate


Media contacts
For more information please contact Marianne Quinn Regional Media Officer at marianne_quinn@rnli.org.uk or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager on Amy_Caldwell@rnli.org.uk or 07920818807 or RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or via pressoffice@rnli.org.uk .

Sam Chamberlain

RNLI lifeguards at the beach lifeguard unit (BLU)

Sam Chamberlain

RNLI lifeguards patrolling Perranporth on a busy day in summer 2020

Sam Chamberlain

RNLI lifeguards on the inshore rescue boat

Sam Chamberlain

RNLI lifeguard punching through surf on the rescue water craft

Sam Chamberlain

RNLI lifeguard moving the red and yellow flag

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.