RNLI and British Canoeing issue safety advice after rise in paddlesport rescues

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI has teamed up with British Canoeing to encourage people to make safety a priority before taking to the water. Echoing the safety advice is a kayaker who claims his trip to the coast may have ended in tragedy had he not been carrying the correct kit.

The summer safety campaign is in response to figures showing the number of lives saved while kayaking or canoeing by RNLI crews more than doubled last year in comparison to 2021*. Stand up paddleboarding has continued to increase in popularity as last year, RNLI lifeboat crews saw a 21% rise in launches to paddleboarders** across the UK and Ireland, in comparison to 2021.

It is a particular issue on Anglesey where RNLI lifeboat crews at Trearddur Bay, Moelfre, Holyhead and Beaumaris have seen the number of people rescued whilst taking part in these activities rocket from six in 2021 to 37 people in 2022.

RNLI crews are urging visitors to the coast to make safety a priority this summer. It is a message shared by kayaker Guy Lowdes, from Llandegla who was returning from the Skerries near Holyhead, with a group of 10 other kayakers back in December when he got into trouble.

Guy says:

‘I’m an experienced coastal kayaker and never did I expect to find myself in this situation, my kayak was capsized by a rogue wave and I found myself in the water on a very cold December afternoon. The tide pushed me one way and my boat the other, I must have been in the water about 20 minutes.’

Guy’s friend was able to remain with him and thankfully had a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which he used to call for help. A rescue operation was mounted including a helicopter and RNLI crews from Holyhead and Moelfre.

‘I’m just so grateful we had a means of calling for help, so we could alert the RNLI to exactly where we were located. I was starting to feel incredibly cold and poorly despite wearing a dry suit. I’m convinced if I’d have been there any longer with the failing light, we may never have been found.

‘Once the RNLI arrived and I was taken onboard Holyhead’s lifeboat, the adrenaline stopped. I felt very unwell and cold. I’m so pleased to be here today sharing my story and hoping people take heed of the RNLI’s advice and never set up without having the necessary equipment. My story just goes to show how dangerously unpredictable the sea can be.’

The RNLI and British Canoeing are raising awareness of how to stay safe on the water when planning to stand up paddleboard, kayak or canoe on any type of water.

Their safety advice is to:

  • Wear a buoyancy aid or personal flotation device.
  • Carry a means of communication to call for help in an emergency.
  • Check the weather before heading out.
  • Tell others of your plans so they know when you will be returning.
  • Paddle within your ability.

The Anglesey coastline in Wales has become a mecca for people wanting to take to the sea and experience these popular activities, but local RNLI crews are encouraging people to heed by their advice.

Volunteer RNLI lifeboat launched 18 times last year to people partaking in paddle sport activities compared with eight incidents in 2021. RNLI lifeboat crews spent over 108 hours at sea in 2022 helping people who got into trouble whilst enjoying a trip out on the coast.

Vince Jones, RNLI mechanic at Moelfre says they have been inundated with calls to stand-up paddleboarders in particular. He says:

‘We want people to enjoy our stunning coastline but are urging people to think carefully before setting out. Many of our calls are to people being blown out to sea in offshore winds. We ask people to think carefully about the weather and tides before setting off and ensuring they have a means of calling for help.’

Lee Pooley, Director of Coaching & Qualifications at British Canoeing says:

‘Whether you are kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddleboarding it is extremely important no matter what your experience is to follow some simple steps to keep yourself and others safe when out on the water.

‘Paddlesports are such an accessible and fun activity with significant benefits to mental and physical wellbeing. The UK has some outstanding waterways and coastline to explore, we just want everyone to take care and be safe whilst they enjoy their paddle.

‘Working alongside the RNLI and other stakeholders including manufacturers, retailers, Delivery Partners and Clubs we want to ensure our five simple messages are remembered and considered before anyone ventures out onto the water.

‘We are keen to get as many organisations involved as possible, to extend our reach and engagement to ensure that those getting out onto the water paddle safely.’

Find information on how to stay safe during paddlesports here: rnli.org/safety/choose-your-activity

Notes to Editors

RNLI/Nigel Millard

RNLI is joining forces with British Canoeing to issue safety guidance after a significant increase in paddle sports rescues.

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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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