Rescued Welsh paddleboarder teams up with RNLI to offer vital safety advice
Zoe Williams, from Pwllheli in North Wales was dramatically rescued by Porthdinllaen RNLI lifeboat after being blown out to sea at dusk.
The terrifying experience has led to the experienced paddleboarder joining forces with the RNLI and HM Coastguard to urge people to take safety seriously this summer. The plea comes as the charity sees an increase in the popular activity across the coast.
Zoe is eager to share her story to help others enjoy safe paddle-boarding this summer:
‘On Sunday (13 June) after a nice day on the beach, my partner and I decided to take the paddleboard and kayak to Trefor. As I was going back and forth around the point, I saw my partner had returned to the shore and was starting to pack up. I wasn’t too far behind him, but that’s when I got into trouble.
‘The wind had turned, and it didn’t matter how much I paddled, the tide was against me. I was being pulled further and further away from the shore. At that point I realised I wouldn’t be able to return to shore on my own – and it was much too far to try and swim – so I decided to phone 999 and ask for help.’
‘I’m extremely lucky that I had taken my mobile phone with me in a waterproof pouch around my neck that day and was able to call 999 for help. I got through to a lovely lady at Holyhead Coastguard who stayed with me on the phone until the RNLI lifeboat arrived. In the meantime, I had drifted out a mile and half from the shore and the waves were getting bigger. She stayed with me on the phone throughout, reassuring me that everything would be ok.’
Porthdinllaen RNLI volunteers received a call to a paddleboarder in trouble off Trefor just after 8.40pm.
Robert Jones, volunteer Coxswain at Porthdinllaen RNLI said:
‘As the lifeboat made its way over to Trefor it was a relief to hear over the radio that she could see us – by that point it was after 9pm and getting dark – but at least if she could see us we were heading in the right direction. By then, Zoe was a mile and a half from shore when she was rescued by the lifeboat and had travelled quite a distance in a very short amount of time.’
With stand up paddleboards increasing in popularity across both inland and coastal waters, Zoe - supported by the RNLI and HM Coastguard - is reminding other water users of the importance of wearing a buoyancy aid and carrying a means of calling for help when on the water this summer.
‘Words can’t describe how grateful I am to both the RNLI and Coastguard for helping me that day. They saved my life – and for that I am extremely grateful. But the reason I wanted to share my story is to help raise awareness of the importance of wearing a lifejacket when going out on the water. It doesn’t matter how careful you are, accidents happen. There’s a saying ‘the sea is a cruel mistress’ and that is very true. This could happen to anyone; the sea is unpredictable and situations can change in a split second.’
RNLI lifeboat crews across the UK and Republic of Ireland launched 88 times in 2020 to paddle boarders in difficulty – 12 of those launches resulting in lives saved. Out of the 88 launches nearly half of those call-outs (43) were to paddle boarders who had been swept out to sea.
Lee Crumpler, HM Coastguard Coastal Area Commander based in Wales, said:
‘This incident is a timely reminder of how dangerous and unpredictable the coast and sea can be, with conditions changing very quickly. More and more people are holidaying in the UK again this summer and while we want everyone to enjoy themselves doing recreational watersports, we’re also encouraging everyone to think safety first and be as paddle-prepared as possible so it's a fun rather than frightening experience’.
The RNLI safety advice to all paddleboarders this summer is:
· Always wear a suitable buoyancy aid.
· Check weather forecast and tide times.
· Carry a means of calling for help. Mobile phones can be kept dry by using a waterproof phone pouch.
· Always go with a friend.
· Always wear your leash and stay on your board if you get into trouble – this will help you float.
· If you get into trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for help.
Notes to editor
· Attached photos show Zoe Williams with Robert Jones, Porthdinllaen RNLI Second Coxswain and Mali Parry-Jones, volunteer crew and Porthdinllaen RNLI Water Safety Officer. L-R: Robert Jones, Zoe Williams and Mali Parry-Jones.
· Copy of the RNLI press release of the rescue can be found here: https://rnli.org/news-and-media/2021/june/14/porthdinllaen-rnli-rescue-paddle-boarder-off-the-lleyn-peninsula
RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Eleri Roberts, RNLI Regional Media Officer on 07771 941390 or email Eleri_Roberts@rnli.org.uk. Alternatively contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.
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.