Fistral RNLI lifeguards rescue 16 surfers and bodyboarders caught in strong rip

Lifeguards News Release

Yesterday (Tuesday 13 July) at 1.00pm RNLI lifeguards at Fistral beach in Newquay, Cornwall were involved in a mass rescue of 16 people on surf and bodyboards, as they were pulled out to sea in a powerful rip current that appeared in the middle of the beach as the tide was going out.

Fistral RNLI

Fistral RNLI lifeguard team

RNLI lifeguard Liv Harwood was the first to respond and headed straight to the casualties on her rescue board. Once Liv began to help the first few casualties onto her board, she called for some assistance from the rest of the team as she could see more people were being pulled into the path of the current.

Lifeguard Ben Temme quickly paddled over on a rescue board, whilst lifeguard Stuart Weatherly was on the rescue water craft (RWC) helping to pick people up and bring them back to safety.

The conditions on Fistral were sunny with 2-4ft surf and lots of people in the sea. At the time of the incident the team already had three lifeguards patrolling on rescue boards in the water in preparation for any sudden change, Arron Evans, senior lifeguard at Fistral, explains how the rip current became very powerful:

‘At the moment on Fistral there is a deep trench that runs across the middle of the beach. The big tides combined with today’s surf conditions meant that when the tide was going out, a really strong rip current started to pull out to sea.

Whilst Liv, Ben and Stuart were helping surfers who’d been pulled out to sea from the black and white flags (surf zone), lifeguard George Murphy was assisting some bodyboarders who were drifting away from the red and yellow flags towards the rip and making sure all the swimmers were safe.’

Earlier in the day at 12.15pm, lifeguard Lesley Dawson was on a board patrol in the water when she responded to a rescue and assist of three male surfers caught out in a rip current and struggling to return to shore. In total the RNLI lifeguard team at Fistral came to the aid of 19 people caught in powerful rip currents within a couple of hours.

Arron continued saying,

‘Today has proven just how powerful rip currents can be, and how quickly you could find yourself caught out by one. That’s why it's so important to head to a lifeguarded beach and swim and bodyboard between the red and yellow flags, or surf between the black and white flags.

As lifeguards we have the local knowledge of rip currents for the beaches we work on and always prepare according to the conditions of the day. Our lifeguards were ready to respond when needed today, as well as warning people of the dangers before they enter the water.’

If you ever find yourself caught in a rip current, try to remember the following key safety advice:

  • Don’t try to swim against it, you will quickly get exhausted
  • If you can stand, wade don’t swim
  • If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore
  • If you can’t swim – FLOAT to live by leaning back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing
  • Always raise your hand and shout for help
  • If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Notes to editors

· Please find attached an image of Fistral RNLI lifeguard team, credit: Fistral RNLI

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