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Posted on Jul 3, 2014 by

With summer well and truly here, and inspired by a photogenic walk from Hayle to Gwithian, it’s time to share a bit of beach safety.

In Cornwall, the RNLI lifeguard patrol 57 beaches. 2013 was their busiest year since the service was launched in 2001, having attended 13,390 incidents, assisting 14,802 people and saving 56 lives.

The RNLI relies on charitable donations to continue its lifesaving work around the UK’s coastline. 93% of the charity’s income comes from donations.

Local authorities and beach owners contribute to the RNLI’s costs which help to cover lifeguard wages, but the individual lifeguard training costs and essential lifeguard equipment are both funded by voluntary donations. It costs £524 to train a lifeguard each year and £600 to equip each lifeguard.

lifeguards board

Here are the RNLI’s top beach safety tips:

  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags.
  • Never use inflatables in strong winds or rough seas.
  • Check tide times before you go.
  • If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
  • If you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

For a comprehensive guide to beach safety, visit the RNLI website.

red and yellow flag

The red and yellow flags mark the swimming area patrolled by lifeguards. Also suitable for bodyboarding.

black and white flag

You shouldn’t swim or bodyboard between the black and white chequered flags. This area is for surfing and kayaking.

red flag

The red flag indicates danger and you should never enter the water when it is flying.

Lifeguards work extremely hard to keep people safe and, on a busy day with thousands of people in the water, this can be challenging. A major part of a lifeguard’s role is preventative, offering intervention before an incident happens. They keep people within the designated flagged zones, move the bathing zones as conditions change and offer advice to beach goers.

A lifeguard’s job can look rather glamorous…


…but sometimes the sea can look like this…


Please don’t be complacent, obey the lifeguards – they risk their lives to safe yours. Stay safe on the beach this summer.

Find out how you can donate to the RNLI.


All images by Ellie Michell, apart from final image by Nigel Millard/RNLI, taken from his exhibition in aid of the RNLI, held at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole last winter.

1 Comment

  1. Hiya – just wanted to add that if people would like their kids to get to know more about ocean safety whilst having lots of fun check out the Surf Life Saving Clubs around our coast. for more info

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