Summer saw highest number of lives saved in watersport incidents for 19 years

Lifeboats News Release

New data released by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has revealed summer* 2021 saw the highest number of lives saved during watersport incidents since 2002. The 55 lives saved this summer by volunteer crews was the largest number since 72 lives were saved in 2002.

RNLI/Stephen Duncombe

Porthcawl Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Rose of the Shires B-832 at sea during a training exercise in rough weather.

Based on provisional incident reports** from RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, the period from 1 June to 31 August, also saw the highest number of lives saved overall since 2016***, with RNLI volunteers saving 176 lives in total.

Compared to five years ago, rescues involving those participating in watersports this summer saw a 36% increase in terms of lives saved and a 34% rise in the number of people aided while taking part in watersport activities.

Watersport figures cover people who got into difficulty while bodyboarding, using inflatables, kayaking or canoeing, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, rowing, surfing, swimming, water-skiing, windsurfing and dinghy sailing.

The RNLI’s statistics also illustrate the huge increase in popularity in paddleboarding. In 2016, there were just nine lifeboat launches to paddleboarders during the summer with two people being aided. However, this summer, there were 61 lifeboat launches, 13 lives saved, and 83 people aided in total.

Incidents involving swimmers also saw a 10% rise in the number of lives saved and the number of casualties aided more than doubled, in comparison to 2016.

The RNLI’s Head of Water Safety, Gareth Morrison, said: ‘This year, we saw continued restrictions on foreign travel and hence, more people flocked to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad.

‘But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer as these figures show.’

The RNLI’s 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland remain on call 24/7 to respond in an emergency to anyone in distress at sea.

Gareth Morrison added: ‘Over the coming months, as the temperature drops, sea conditions will also become rougher and more unpredictable. If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.’

‘If you do find yourself in the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE by fighting your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float until you gain control of your breathing, before deciding whether to call for help or swim to safety.’

The RNLI’s volunteer crews are ready to leave their loved ones this Christmas and answer the call for help to reunite another family.

You can be part of our lifesaving mission by donating to the RNLI. To show your support, visit:


Notes to Editor

  • *Summer is defined as 1 June to 31 August 2021
  • ** Figures given in this press release are provisional and are correct as of 9 November 2021. The final statistics for lifeguards and lifeboats will be available in early 2022.
  • *** In summer 2016 there were a total of 204 lives saved.
  • Full breakdown of statistics is available upon request.
  • Definition of watersports includes bodyboarding, dinghy sailing, inflatables, kayaking/canoeing, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, rowing, surfing, swimming, water-skiing and windsurfing.

RNLI media contacts
For more information please call Charlotte Cranny-Evans, RNLI Press Officer, on 07393 763 780 or or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336 789.

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.

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