RNLI lifeguards to finish for 2021 as charity urge caution over winter months

Lifeguards News Release

RNLI lifeguards in the south west will hang up their wetsuits at 5pm this Sunday (31 October) for the 2021 season, not returning to beaches until next spring, as the charity is reminding people using the coast over winter to take extra care and heed safety advice.

Kris Lammen

RNLI lifeguards punch through surf at Polzeath

At this time of year the weather conditions are becoming more severe bringing strong winds and bigger, more powerful surf. After 5pm on Sunday (31 October), the lifesaving charity will no longer have an operational lifeguard service on any of the beaches in the south west.

This safety warning comes after a very busy October half-term week where beaches in the region have continued to see high visitor numbers and the lifeguard and lifeboat crews performing multiple rescues to people getting into difficulty in the water.

On Wednesday (27 October) at around 4:00pm, Polzeath RNLI lifeguards launched the Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) to reports of two male paddleboarders caught out in the large breaking waves and unable to remain on their boards. With the help of a local surfer, who assisted one of the paddleboards to safety, lifeguards Rob Sheard (helm) and Ioan Bale (crew) were able to pull the other casualty onto the IRB and return him safely to shore.

Tom Mansell, RNLI Regional Lifesaving Lead says:

‘It’s been an extremely busy season from March right the way through and October has been no exception. With multiple lifeguard rescues, people are getting caught out by the unpredictable sea conditions caused by the weather at this time of year. Luckily our lifeguards have been on hand to respond. But now the season is ending and there will be no lifeguards offering safety cover after 5pm on Sunday, it’s really important for people to be extra cautious if they are thinking about entering the water.

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

- Always 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.

To find out more about the RNLI’s safety advice please visit: https://rnli.org/safety

Notes to editors

· Please find attached images of Polzeath lifeguards launching the IRB during a rescue on Wednesday (27 October). Lifeguards Rob Sheard (helm) and Ioan Bale (crew) credit: Kris Lammen

· To support the RNLI’s lifesavers visit: www.rnli.org/donate

· To support the RNLI’s lifeguard appeal visit: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/SW-Lifeguard-Appeal-2021

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Claire Fitzpatrick-Smith, Media Engagement Placement (south west) on c_fitzpatrick-smith@rnli.org.uk or 07902 975993, or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager on 07920 818807 or Amy_Caldwell@rnli.org.uk. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or pressoffice@rnli.org.uk.

RNLI online

For more information on the RNLI please visit rnli.org. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre rnli.org/news-and-media.

Kris Lammen

RNLI lifeguards head towards capsized paddleboarders

Kris Lammen

Rescue of two paddleboarders at Polzeath

Kris Lammen

Big surf conditions at Polzeath, Cornwall

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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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.