RNLI lifeguards in the South West will hang up their wetsuits at 5pm today (Sunday) for the 2021 season, not returning to beaches until next spring, as the charity is reminding people using the coast over winter to take extra care and heed safety advice.
At this time of year the weather conditions are becoming more severe bringing strong winds and bigger, more powerful surf.
After today, the lifesaving charity will no longer have an operational lifeguard service on any of the beaches in the region.
This safety warning comes after a very busy October half-term week where beaches in the region have continued to see high visitor numbers and the lifeguard and lifeboat crews performing multiple rescues to people getting into difficulty in the water.
On Wednesday at around 4pm, Polzeath RNLI lifeguards launched the Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) to reports of two male paddleboarders caught out in the large breaking waves and unable to remain on their boards.
With the help of a local surfer, who assisted one of the paddleboards to safety, lifeguards Rob Sheard (helm) and Ioan Bale (crew) were able to pull the other casualty onto the IRB and return him safely to shore.
Tom Mansell, RNLI Regional Lifesaving Lead said: "It’s been an extremely busy season from March right the way through and October has been no exception.
"With multiple lifeguard rescues, people are getting caught out by the unpredictable sea conditions caused by the weather at this time of year.
"Luckily our lifeguards have been on hand to respond. But now the season is ending and there will be no lifeguards offering safety cover after 5pm on Sunday, it’s really important for people to be extra cautious if they are thinking about entering the water.
"Although the lifeguards have packed up until spring, RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews will continue to be on call 365 days a year ready to respond to emergencies.
"But to avoid putting yourself and our volunteers at risk, please heed the following safety advice this winter.’
* Always check tides, weather and sea conditions and be realistic about your level of ability. Winter is not the time to push your limits.
* Avoid going in the water alone. If you are planning to go for a kayak, surf or swim, always go with someone, have someone on the shore or at least let somebody 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 signage at the entrance to the beach which will indicate any localised hazards. If in doubt, ask a local for advice.
* Always wear appropriate equipment, this includes a winter wetsuit, wetsuit hood, boots and gloves – the colder you get, the weaker your body will become, increasing your risk of getting into difficulty. We’d also suggest having warm clothing, a hot drink and a woolly hat for afterwards.
* If you find yourself in trouble, never abandon your craft, it will keep you afloat until help arrives.
* If you see somebody in difficulty, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Stay on scene until they arrive as this will aid the rescue, but please do not attempt to rescue them yourself.