Age is no barrier! Over 50’s Jersey RNLI lifeguards prove age is just a number

Lifeguards News Release

A wealth of experience has been brought to the RNLI lifeguard team in Jersey this season following the recruitment of older lifeguards from the local surfing community


Jersey Lifeguard Digby Ellis-Brecknell

Following a shortage of experienced lifeguards after the pandemic, a push to recruit older lifeguards resulted in an intake of individuals over the age of 50 keen to offer their life experience and help save lives at sea.

Jake Elms, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor in Jersey said;

‘We lost a lot of our experienced lifeguards after the pandemic, so last year (2022) we actively recruited veteran surfers who had grown up on the beach and this led to an intake of older lifeguards.

‘It gives them the opportunity to keep fit, use their surf knowledge, and gain casualty care training. They help coach the less experienced lifeguards and bring a lot of life experience which can be useful for dealing with anti-social behaviour on the beach or in a trauma care situation.’

Digby Ellis- Brecknell who is 53, completed his training and joined as a RNLI lifeguard this summer. His son was already working for the charity as a lifeguard in 2022;

‘My son enjoyed his role last year and I spent so much time in the sea, either spear fishing or open water swimming or surfing, that I thought it is about time I spend some time helping other people, protecting the environment I like, and giving something back in that ocean environment.’

Digby believes there is no age restriction when it comes being able to lifeguard and that as long as you keep yourself fit and healthy, feel confident in the water, and are keen to build on your own personal skills, it is a fantastic opportunity;

‘I think as an older lifeguard, you certainly bring one thing and that's life experience. In certain situations, you can step back a little bit, take your time, and think through a situation before rushing in. And that's just life experience.’

At 54, his colleague Michael Charlton, who also became an RNLI Lifeguard at St. Ouens beach this summer, agrees;

‘We spend a lot of time down at the beaches, so we know how it reacts and how it changes through the tides. We are pretty fit for older guys as well, so we can keep up with youngsters and give them a run for their money!’

In terms of RNLI Lifeguard training, individuals must hold a National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ) or ILS Beach/Surf Lifeguard qualification or equivalent, pass the required fitness tests and possess the essential personal attributes that will make a great beach lifeguard.

Michael added;

‘I loved the training. As there were a few guys of a similar age doing it at the same time, we had good camaraderie. We knew we had the good beach skills, but it is so important acquiring the knowledge and skillset to use it in rescue situations. With the induction course, there was a lot of the book work and a lot of practical stuff alongside it, for example learning to use radios, swimming with the rescue tubes, rescue board skills and so much more. It was really, really good fun and we learned a lot.’

If you are someone who loves the outdoors and being active, Michael recommends anyone to consider joining the RNLI lifeguard service;

‘I'd say it's definitely something to go for. You learn a great deal. A lot of medical knowledge and vital rescue skills. You keep fit with a good bunch of people and obviously, you are working at your home beach, one that you've got experience with. It is definitely an opportunity for older people - you're never too old to do something like this, as long as you've got the basic fitness, there's always a place for you.’

Due to the improvement in weather and the consistent surf conditions, the Jersey RNLI lifeguards have already had a busy August and are expecting it to continue over this bank holiday weekend. Many of the recent rescues have been at St Ouens with swimmers and surfers being caught out by rip currents.

Jersey RNLI Lifeguards will be running two lifeguard open days on 2 and 9 September 2023. These taster sessions begin at 11am and are an opportunity to meet the team, learn about how they manage the beaches and get hands on with the rescue equipment. The open days will be held at El Tico, St Ouens Bay. Further information can be found on the Jersey RNLI Lifeguard Instagram page.

For further information on how to become an RNLI Lifeguard, please visit: or email: [email protected].

RNLI lifeguards are currently patrolling daily from 10am-6pm at the following beaches:

  • Plemont until 10/09/23
  • Greve De Lecq until 10/09/23
  • St Brelades until 24/09/23
  • St Ouens until 29/10/23

Notes to editors

Please find image of 1. Jersey RNLI lifeguard Digby Ellis-Brecknell and 2. Jersey RNLI Lifeguard Michael Charlton. (Credit: RNLI)

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Jersey Lifeguard Michael Charlton

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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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