RNLI issues urgent warning to all paddleboarders as ‘people blown out to sea’ in UK - how to stay safe

The RNLI has urged those using kayaks, canoes or paddleboards to “think carefully about the weather and tides” as the number of rescue calls has increased
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A warning has been issued to paddleboarders to stay safe and “think carefully about the weather and tides” as people have been “blown out to sea”.

The RNLI has teamed up with British Canoeing to encourage those using kayaks, canoes or paddleboards to make safety a priority as the number of calls to rescue people have increased.

Since 2020 and the easing of Covid restrictions, British Canoeing has seen a dramatic growth in paddling activities and a 127% increase in membership.

With numbers of those taking part in the water sport increasing, the number of people in the UK and Ireland whose lives are saved by crews while kayaking or canoeing is also going up.

The number of those saved while kayaking or canoeing more than doubled last year and there was a 21% increase in callouts to people on paddle boards as the sport grew in popularity, a RNLI spokesman said.

Warning to paddleboarders to stay safe as ‘people blown out to sea’. (Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire) Warning to paddleboarders to stay safe as ‘people blown out to sea’. (Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)
Warning to paddleboarders to stay safe as ‘people blown out to sea’. (Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Vince Jones, a mechanic for the RNLI in Moelfre, Anglesey, North Wales, said they had been inundated with calls to stand-up paddleboarders.

He said: “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 ensure they have a means of calling for help.”

On Saturday (29 July) Tenby RNLI were called out twice to deal with paddleboarders and a kite surfer in difficulty, while Looe RNLI were also called to two paddleboarders caught out by offshore winds.

All of the casualties were picked up and returned safely to shore.

Last year, crews in Anglesey rescued 37 people taking part in paddlesports, compared to just six people in 2021.

Guy Lowndes, from Llandegla, North Wales, was rescued last December after getting into difficulty while kayaking with a group of 10 others near Holyhead in Anglesey.

He said: “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.”

Mr Lowndes’ friend had a personal locator beacon with him so he was able to call for help and a rescue operation was launched which included a helicopter and two lifeboat crews,

Mr Lowndes added: “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.”

Anyone planning to stand-up paddleboard, kayak or canoe is advised to wear a buoyancy aid, carry a means of communication, check the weather before heading out, tell others of their plans and paddle within their abilities.

Lee Pooley, director of coaching and qualifications at British Canoeing said 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.”

He added: “Paddlesport is such an accessible and fun activity with significant benefits to mental and physical well being. 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.”

How to stay safe paddleboarding or canoeing

The RNLI issues advice on its website to those who are stand-up paddleboarding - which has become one of the fastest growing watersports.

It has worked with training agencies and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to develop four things people should do every time they go out on the water.

Wear a buoyancy aid

The RNLI says a buoyancy aid will provide extra floatation in the water and will also help give time to recover if someone falls into the water.

It is important to have the correct size as this will help when getting back on to the board, and check the weight range and chest size when buying so it allows plenty of movement to paddle freely.

Carry a phone in waterproof pouch

Those going out on the water are advised to use mobile phones in an emergency to raise the alarm.

Mobile phones can be carried in a buoyancy aid pocket or around the neck it can be easily reached if someone is in trouble.

In a coastal emergency call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

Wear the correct leash

The RNLI says choosing a correct leash is “really important” as it will help people stay connected to their boards.

Those who plan to paddle in tidal or flowing waters are advised to wear a quick release waist leash.

Avoid offshore winds

Offshore winds are winds that are blowing from the beach or shore out to sea and are deceptive due to how quickly people can be blown out on their paddleboards.

On a lifeguard beach an orange windsock will show which way the wind is blowing.

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