The RNLI is a vital charity dedicated to saving lives at sea. Their volunteer lifeboat crews provide a 24-hour rescue service year-round in the UK and Ireland, while seasonal lifeguards watch over busy beaches from Easter to the end of October. With over 143,900 lives saved since 1824, the RNLI's impact is not limited to rescues. They also influence, supervise, and educate people in water safety. RNLI lifeguards monitor more than 240 beaches across the UK and Channel Islands, including 10 stunning locations in Newquay: Fistral, Mawgan Porth, Watergate Bay, Towan, Crantock, Great Western, Porth, Tlcarne, South Fistral, and Lusty Glaze, each with their own unique season dates.
After nearly 80 years of operating an all-weather lifeboat, Newquay Lifeboat Station closed in 1945. However, it re-opened its doors in 1965, and since then, the dedicated volunteer crew has received multiple awards for their acts of bravery. Today, the station operates two inshore lifeboats from its base in Newquay harbour. Visitors can tour the station during summer months and even shop for souvenirs at the station's store.
The number of visitors to South West beaches during the summer of 2021 was 11 million, and this figure is expected to continure to rise. To ensure the safety of of any who choose to visit the coast between Easter and October, RNLI strongly advises the following beach safety guidance:
- Visit a lifeguard beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. Lifeguards are on duty between 10AM-6PM.
- Check the weather forecast, tide times, and read local hazard signage to understand local risks.
- Keep a close eye on your family - on the beach and in the water - don't allow your family to swim alone.
- If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back extend your arms and legs, and float.
- In an emergency dial 999/112 and ask for the Coastguard.
During the winter months when the RNLI lifeguard season is over, the weather conditions in the South West become more severe, resulting in stronger winds and bigger waves, increasing the risk of rip currents and strong tidal surges. With the advance in wetsuit technology, and the popularity of cold water swimming, the use of water outside of the traditional lifeguard season has increased.
To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience when visiting the coast during the winter:
- Always check the local tide times, weather forecast, and sea conditions and be realistic of your level of ability. Winter is not the time to push your limits - most beaches now have webcams so you can look at the sea state and plan appropriately.
- Avoid entering the water alone. If you are planning to go for a swim, surf, kayak, or any other water activity, always go with somebody and let them know where you will be and what time you expect to be back.
- If you are an inexperienced water user, avoid isolated beaches that have a reduced footfall so that if you do get into difficulty, there is a chance someone will see you and raise the alarm.
- Take note of the safety signage at the entrance to the beach which will indicate any localised hazards. If in doubt, ask a local for advice.
- Always wear appropriate clothing and equipment, this includes a winter wetsuit, wetsuit hood, boots and gloves - the colder you get, the weaker your body will become which can increase your risk of getting into difficulty. Having warm clothing, a hot drink, and a woolly hat for afterwards is also advised.
- If you find yourself in trouble, never abandon your craft, it will keep you afloat until help arrives.
- If you see somebody in difficulty, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Stay on scene until they arrive as this will aid the rescue, but please dot attempt to rescue them yourself.
Paddleboarding has been gaining popularity as a fun and exciting water activity in Newquay. With our calm waters and stunning coastal scenery, paddleboarding offers a unique perspective of the town and its surrounding beaches. The sport is accessible to all ages and abilities and is a great way to stay active while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Due to this increasing popularity, the RNLI has also provided us with some simple tips to improve your time paddleboarding:
- If you can, always go with a friend. It's more fun, and they can help you if you get into difficulty.
- If you are going out alone, always tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back. Don't leave the house without a mobile phone or communication device.
- Bringing your phone to take some photos? Make sure you keep it in a waterproof pouch. That way it won't get wet, and you can use it to call for help in an emergency too.
- Check the weather forecast and tide times before you set out. If the water is too choppy, you might find it difficult, especially if you are a beginner. And be aware, the conditions can change quickly.
- Avoid offshore winds. They will quickly blow your paddleboard far out to sea, which can make it extremely tiring and difficult to paddle back to shore.
- You should wear a suitable Personal Flotation Device (PFD) like a buoyancy aid. Choose one that still allows you plenty of movement so you can paddle freely. Not only will it keep you afloat, but it will also help give you time to recover should you fall in - and chances are you will!
- Wear suitable clothing for the time of year. In the winter, you will want to use a wet or dry suit. In the summer, you might be able to get away with a swim suit. But if you are going to be in the water for a long time, you might want to upgrade to something that keeps you warm.
- You should always use a paddleboard with an appropriate leash. There's nothing more frustrating than having to swim after your paddleboard if you fall off. The leash will also help you stay connected to your board if you get into trouble and help you float. British Canoeing has some great tips to help you decide which leash is right for you.
- If you are launching on a lifeguard beach, make sure you launch and recover between the black and white chequered flags. There should be less swimmers in this area, giving you more room to manoeuvre. Consider other water users by learning the rights of way in the surf. This can save you and others getting injured.
- Get the appropriate level of training. You might be tempted to just buy a board and head out. Having a few training sessions can teach you the right technique, so it's more stand-up and less fall-in paddleboarding!
In addition to the general safety tips, when paddling on an inland waterway, lake or river:
- In an emergency call 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue service.
- Use a quick release belt system for flowing water and tidal waterway.
- Be aware of hazards in your location and plan accordingly.