What it takes to be an RNLI lifeguard
An RNLI Bridlington lifeguard details the challenges and privileges of the job.
Being an RNLI lifeguard is demanding both physically and mentally, but above all it is rewarding. The self-development and skills the charity's lifeguards achieve through their training courses prepares them for the busy reality of guarding the UK’s coast. RNLI lifeguards play a vital role in ensuring the beach is safe and enjoyable for the public by preventing incidents before they occur.
Training to be a lifeguard is extensive. First, all applicants must undergo a health assessment to ensure they are physically capable of the job. This comes in handy when the trainees must complete a 400m pool swim in under 7.5 minutes as well as 200m run in under 40 seconds. RNLI Bridlington lifeguard Ben Colling spoke about the challenges of being a lifeguard. He highlighted the importance of fitness, especially when it comes to caring for casualties, with crash bags weighing a significant amount.
Then the learning begins – trainee lifeguards spend a week learning the ins and outs of the RNLI’s terminology as well as undertaking a casualty care course where they learn first-aid and CPR. The casualty care course trains all upcoming lifeguards on how to deal with injuries and illnesses, especially by using first-aid equipment found at the lifeguard units.
Vehicle training is also essential for newbie lifeguards; some undergo an all-terrain vehicle course or a four-wheel drive course. This trains them in manoeuvring vehicles quickly and safely around busy beaches when trying to reach a casualty or whilst undertaking patrols.
Training on an inshore rescue boat is also vital as it provides lifeguards will the skills required to operate the boat in the water. The same applies to the use of rescue watercrafts, with the added training of safely and effectively coping in dangerous surf conditions.
These trainee lifeguards experience a series of staged scenarios which lets them put their knowledge to the test, meaning all the lifeguards are raring to go on the first day of the lifeguard season. However, this training does not stop when the season starts. Lifeguards must keep up their fitness throughout the summer by going to the pool regularly to undertake more fitness tests whilst going on runs every day. With Covid-19 restrictions keeping pools closed, lifeguards like Ben instead take their daily swims in the sea during a shift – preparing them for the reality of the cold sea when responding to an incident.
Ben, one of the RNLI’s youngest Ops Commands lifeguards, highlighted the importance of level-headedness when being a lifeguard:
‘You need to be level-headed because most days you will be in a difficult and busy situation. Being a lifeguard has taught me to remain calm in all situations and take a step back and think before I make any choices.'
Being a lifeguard for the RNLI is rewarding and has many development opportunities. Ben, who is also part of the Filey lifeboat crew, spoke about the satisfaction of helping people:
‘I love being in the middle of everything and interacting with people on a daily basis. It’s a very public facing role. It’s challenging of course but being an RNLI lifeguard really gives you a purpose.’
To find out more about becoming a lifeguard, please visit:
Notes to editors
RNLI Bridlington lifeguard Ben Colling spoke to the media engagement team to give a further insight into the reality of being a lifeguard.
RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Derry Salter, RNLI Media Engagement Placement on: 07929 673281 or email: [email protected]
Or, the RNLI Press Office available 24/7 on 01202 336789 [email protected]
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.