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Busy end to summer holidays for RNLI lifeguards across south west beaches

Lifeguards News Release

During the recent bank holiday weekend, RNLI lifeguards dealt with multiple incidents including a mass rescue of 14 people, and off-duty lifeguards saved the life of a 12-year-old boy.


Gwenver RNLI lifeguards Mike Lay & Harry Puddiphatt

Gwenver (Cornwall) RNLI lifeguards Mike Lay and Harry Puddiphatt, arrived early to the beach on Thursday morning (25 August) and were greeted with a serious incident unfolding. They both reacted quickly, arriving from opposite directions of the beach lifeguard unit (BLU) at the same time.

A family of three had been bodyboarding and Mike and Harry could see that the father and daughter had got out of the water, but the son was caught in a strong rip current and was struggling to get back to shore.

Without time to unlock the rescue equipment, Mike grabbed a foam board from behind the BLU and carried it down to the water’s edge whilst Harry was quickly getting ready to enter the water. Harry then paddled through the 6-8 foot waves and managed to reach the young boy and brought him safely back to the beach, where Mike and Harry assessed the casualty and reunited him with his family.

Senior RNLI lifeguard, Mike Lay said;

‘He was remarkably lucky that Harry and I had both arrived to work early, we were both sprinting towards the scene and Harry got to him just in time – just another minute later, we could have been dealing with a very different situation. The family were all in shock when we returned the young boy back to shore and reunited him with his dad and sister.

‘Unfamiliar with the beach, they weren’t aware of just how dangerous the conditions were and how quickly you can get into difficulty. Gwenver in particular has been a difficult beach to lifeguard this summer as the sandbanks created by the winter storms have caused so many rip currents which are then made worse by the large surf. The beach has been red flagged regularly which means it is not safe to enter the water.

‘We’d encourage anybody, and particularly if you’re not familiar with the beach environment, to always go to a lifeguarded beach and wait until the lifeguards are on duty and have placed the red and yellow flags in the safest bathing area. The lifeguards can advise on local hazards and the safest place to swim and surf.’

On Sunday 28 August RNLI lifeguards at Watergate Bay performed a mass rescue just as they were locking up the BLU for the day at 6pm. They were doing their final scan of the beach when they spotted a large group of bodyboarders and swimmers caught in a rip current.

Three RNLI lifeguards responded to the incident on rescue boards and between them brought all 14 people safely back to shore.

Nick Stagg, one of the casualties, commented:

‘What the RNLI lifeguards do is unbelievable, the speed and response time was impeccable and we had drifted so far over towards the rocks the conditions were worsening by the minute. All three lifeguards paddled out to us so quickly and made sure we were all safely returned to the beach.

‘I am a strong, regular open water swimmer and have even swam the channel twice, but I can honestly say that I’ve never had to swim so hard before against the current! Always listen to what the lifeguards say – thank you all so much for what you do.’

And on Wednesday 24 August Weymouth RNLI lifeguards, alongside members of the local surf lifesaving club, responded to an incident involving three children who had fallen off their paddleboard after it flipped over causing them to panic. One of the children waved for help and RNLI lifeguard, Maddie Vincent, returned them to shore on the rescue board alongside surf lifesavers, Rob and Dylan.

This Sunday (4 September) a number of beaches in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Dorset will conclude their RNLI lifeguarding service as the school summer holidays come to an end.

During the peak summer season, RNLI lifeguards operate on 90 beaches across the south west region. As we move into September, the RNLI use a staggered approach to withdraw the lifeguard service based on a variety of factors including visitor numbers, previous incident statistics and local hazards.

The beaches in Cornwall that will finish RNLI lifeguard patrols on Sunday (4 September) are:
Freathy, Polurrian Cove, Gunwalloe, Porthleven, Perranuthnoe, Marazion, Porthkidney, Carbis Bay, South Fistral, Lusty Glaze, Crackington Haven and Northcott

The beaches in Devon are:
Sandy Bay, Dawlish Warren, Teignmouth North, Teignmouth South, Hope Cove, Blackpool Sands, Slapton Sands (Monument)and Bigbury-on-Sea

The beaches in Somerset are:
Burnham-on-Sea and Brean

The beaches in Dorset are:
Greenhill and Lyme Regis (Cobb)

RNLI lifeguards in the south west have had one of the busiest summers ever, with huge visitor numbers descending on the region – Watergate Bay recorded over 22,000* people on one day alone during the recent heatwave. As well as huge numbers on beaches, RNLI lifeguards have dealt with multiple mass rescues, lost children, major first aids and provided lots of safety advice to beach goers to ensure they enjoyed their day at the beach as safely as possible.

Notes to editors

· Please find attached an image of Gwenver RNLI lifeguards

· * Statistics from RNLI lifeguard’s daily log beach paperwork

· To find your nearest lifeguarded beach, please visit:

· To support the RNLI’s lifesavers, go to:

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Becky Bright, RNLI Media Engagement Placement (south west) on 07929 673281 or [email protected] or Emily Hazard, Regional Media Officer on 07866 064437 or [email protected]. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or [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.

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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.