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RNLI launch water safety campaign as data shows 11M visited south west beaches

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI and Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard have launched a water safety campaign as figures reveal over 11 million people visited south west beaches last summer*.


RNLI Water Safety expert Ollie Munson demonstrating Float technique

With a recent survey revealing 35 million people are planning to visit UK coastal regions this summer, the charity’s lifesavers are expecting a busy summer ahead.

In a survey commissioned by the RNLI, 86% of the UK adult population (aged 16-64) expect to visit the UK coast or use the beach or sea between now and the end of September, this is up from 75% this time last year. 42% are expected to go three times or more.

Ahead of the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend and half-term holidays, the RNLI and HM Coastguard are launching a water safety campaign, urging everyone to remember that if you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live. To do this: lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. In a coastal emergency, call 999 or 112 for the Coastguard.

There were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2021, across inland and coastal locations, an increase of 23 from the previous year. 40% of people had no intention to enter the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or swept in by waves[1].

Using the Float to Live technique significantly helped Jon, from Yorkshire, who was spending the final day of his Cornish holiday paddling waist-deep at Mawgan Porth beach when RNLI lifeguard Alex spotted him being swept out to sea by a very powerful flash rip current.

After multiple attempts to get back to shore and as the rip rapidly dragged him further out to sea, Jon was struggling to keep his head above the water when he remembered RNLI’s safety advice to Float to Live from his training as a police officer and from reading the RNLI’s safety messaging over the years.

By leaning back in the water, extending his arms and legs and resisting the urge to thrash around, Jon managed to gain control of his breathing and stay afloat whilst lifeguard Alex paddled out to him on a rescue board. After fighting the rip current, Alex was joined by two other lifeguards and they all eventually managed to get Jon onto the rescue watercraft (RWC) and was brought safely to shore.

Jon was in shock and had swallowed a lot of water but was otherwise uninjured. After such a traumatic experience, the lifeguards were impressed with just how well Jon coped with the situation.

Jon said: ‘I tried to do everything right but it was completely out of my control.

‘The waves were taking me under, I was rolling and getting back up, getting a breath and then my head was back under and that was when I thought ‘this is it.’ When I saw Alex, I had never been so pleased to see anyone in my life. All four of the lifeguards did so well, it was stupendous. I cannot find words to thank or praise them enough.’

Joel Ninnes, RNLI South West Water Safety Officer says: ‘As the coast is getting busier now that the warmer weather is here, we’d also like to remind people to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards in the south west saved 56 lives and aided 13,402 people in 2021, so just following this simple piece of advice can be lifesaving.

‘In addition, we’d urge anybody visiting the coast to always carry a means of calling for help and in a coastal emergency call 999 or 112 for the coastguard.’

For further information on the water safety campaign visit:

A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found here:

Notes to editors

· RNLI lifeguards will be on the following additional beaches across the south west from Saturday 28 May; Sandy Bay, Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth North in Devon, plus Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset.

· Please let Becky or Amy know if you’d like to attend the media call.[AC1]

· If you are unable to attend but would like us to record the Float demonstration and any water safety advice, please let us know and we can send content over to you after the event.

· *RNLI figures from lifeguard daily logs which record the number of beach visitors throughout the day.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Becky Bright, RNLI Media Engagement Placement (South West) on 07929 673281 or [email protected] or Amy Caldwell, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 07920 818807 or [email protected]. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or [email protected].

[1] Water Incident Database (WAID), maintained by the National Water Safety Forum. To view and download the WAID 2021 report visit:

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.