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Increased Scottish paddleboard rescues sparks summer safety calls from the RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have launched their water safety campaign as the charity prepares for yet another busy Summer.

RNLI lifeguards returned to Scottish beaches at the weekend, and their service proved to be a popular one last year with over 234,000 visitors and 60,000 preventative actions recorded across their eight beaches.

Paddleboarding has rapidly become one of the most popular activities on waters in and around Scotland, but figures released today by the RNLI reveal an 86% increase in rescues by the lifesaving charity.

Laura Erskine, Water Safety Education Manager for Scotland, is keen to help people enjoy their paddleboards safely this summer by following simple advice.

Laura said: ‘The RNLI noted a significant increase last year to incidents involving paddleboards around Scotland, with a high number of people being blown or swept out to sea. If you’re planning to paddleboard this summer, please follow a few simple steps before heading out to keep you safe:

  • Wear a buoyancy aid.
  • Carry a phone in a waterproof pouch.
  • Wear the correct leash.
  • Avoid offshore winds.

If you end up in the water unexpectedly or are in trouble in the water without your board then float on your back.’

Sheena Thompson from Inverness was rescued by the Wick volunteer lifeboat crew last summer while out on her paddleboard.

Sheena said: ‘I started to head out on my paddleboard from the shore, but the wind started to push me out very quickly. I shouted to my family on the shore to say I was in trouble, but they couldn’t hear me.

‘For a while, I tried to get back to shore but my arms got really tired and sore. I realised that I couldn't swim anymore, and I couldn't really hold onto the board very well if I'd fallen off. So, I just laid down flat on the board and I hoped and prayed someone would come and save me.

I soon heard a chug chug chug in the water and saw the bright orange of the RNLI lifeboat, so I knew I was safe. I was quickly pulled aboard and reunited with my family.

‘There's not a day that goes by that I don't thank God for the RNLI because I never would've survived without them.’

Over half of the people who lose their life at the coast never intend to enter the water in the first place, and as Scottish schools get set to break for summer, experts at the charity are urging everyone planning to enjoy the coast to remember that if you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live.

Laura Erskine, Water Safety Education Manager for Scotland, has this advice: ‘Tilting your head back to submerge the ears is key; we all float best in slightly different positions so your legs may naturally sink and you may need to use your hands to scull. Relax and try to breathe normally, then once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety if you feel able. It’s important to remember that even though the weather is warmer, the water can still be significantly cold.

If you spot someone else in trouble in the water call 999 – if you are at sea or on the beach, ask for the Coastguard, or if inland ask for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.’

RNLI lifeboats launched 1114 times in 2022, saving 33 lives, and as thousands of people finalise their summer plans to head to the coast, an army of dedicated RNLI volunteers are on standby, ready to save lives at sea.

Notes to editors

  • A video of Shona’s rescue by Wick RNLI Lifeboat can be found here.
  • A dramatic video of Anstruther RNLI rescuing two paddleboards is available here.
  • A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found here.
  • Laura Erskine and RNLI Lifeguards are available for interview by request.
  • Shona is unavailable for interview, but her video is available for use.
  • RNLI lifeguards will be on the following beaches across Scotland this summer: Silver Sands, Coldingham, St Andrews East Sands, St Andrews West Sands, Elie Harbour, Burntisland, Leven and Broughty Ferry.
  • For further information on the water safety campaign visit:

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Martin Macnamara, RNLI Regional Media Manager (Scotland) on 07920365929 or [email protected].

Natasha Bennett, RNLI Regional Media Officer (Scotland), on 07826900639 or [email protected] or

Jaye Mackay, Media Engagement Placement (Scotland), on 07929673286 or [email protected]

Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or [email protected].

Follow simple steps and enjoy your paddleboard safely this summer.


Follow simple steps and enjoy your paddleboard safely this summer.
The RNLI's advice if you're struggling in the water is Float to Live.


The RNLI's advice if you're struggling in the water is Float to Live.

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

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.