Hit the surf with RNLI lifeguards

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With a rise in the number of surfers taking to Yorkshire’s waters, the ongoing work of the RNLI is vital in helping them stay safe. Sarah Freeman reports.

The dangers of the British waters were tragically illustrated last month.

Following reports that seven people surfing off Mawgan Port Beach in Newquay were in trouble, the Cornish coastguard launched a major search and rescue operation.

Four were safely accounted for, but three, including 52 year old Leeds surgeon Stuart Calder, were pulled unconscious from the water. They were all later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

It is understood the three got into difficulty having become caught in a rip current. Those strong, localised and narrow currents are almost impossible to predict and they can prove fatal for even those experienced in the water.

Such cases like the one at Newquay are thankfully rare, but the RNLI lifeguards are only too aware that it can take just seconds for a disaster to unfold and when the sun shines and the waves are perfect for surfing, the organisation’s lifeguards are often at full stretch.

Take last summer, for example. Over a three month period RNLI lifeguards had a busy season in the north, dealing with 1,408 incidents compared with 1,143 the previous summer, an increase of 23.2 per cent.

It’s one of the reasons why the organisation has been keen to expand its education programme and why it is offering 10 people the chance to have a tailormade version of one of its Hit the Surf sessions as part of this year’s Yorkshire Post Christmas auction.

“Hit the Surf has been a real success story,” says lifeguard manager Chris Ward. “The programme has been targeted at schools, inviting groups of children aged between 13 and 16, to the beach to get involved with interactive water workshops, where they not only improve their surfing skills, but we also teach them how to spot hazards both on the beach and at sea.”

The courses are run over six weeks in June and July and are now held on 14 different East Coast beaches.

“Having our lifeguards stationed on beaches during busy times is vital, but if we can educate others how to stay safe then so much the better. Everyone who works for RNLI is acutely aware of how dangerous the sea can be. We want people to have fun, but we want them to stay safe and this scheme has been all about raising awareness.”

The RNLI say the Hit the Surf auction prize is perfect for companies looking for different team building events and they will work with the winner to deliver a special one-off workshop.

Since its launch in 1824, RNLI stations have saved in excess of 14,000 lives and are reliant on volunteers and fundraising to survive. All the money raised from this year’s Christmas appeal will go towards a £200,000 bespoke launch and recovery vehicle. The Supacat will be needed to pull Scarborough RNLI’s new lifeboat into the water when it comes into operation in 2016.

The first lots go up for auction tomorrow and also include a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the top of the iconic Emley Moor Mast and a tour of the House of Commons.

You can hit the surf by bidding in our online charity Christmas auction. In tomorrow’s edition of The Yorkshire Post we will reveal the first 10 lots up for grabs. Bidding closes at 5pm the following Friday and then every Saturday another 10 lots will be unveiled.

• To bid, visit www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/appeal. You can also keep up-to-speed with what’s on offer on twitter @yorkshirepost #YPxmasauction and or follow The Yorkshire Post’s Facebook page.

You can also make a donation by sending a cheque for the RNLI to Scarborough Lifeboat Station, Foreshore Road, Scarborough, North Yorkshire YO11 1PB. Please make it clear it is part of the Yorkshire Post Christmas Appeal.