UK lifeguards gear up for busiest summer as millions head for coast | Travel & leisure

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and HM Coastguard are braced for their busiest ever summer, with research showing that 30 million people plan to head to the UK coast over the coming months.

The two organisations launched a safety campaign on Thursday, urging visitors to choose beaches patrolled by lifeguards.

One particular concern is that, after months of lockdown confinement and concerns about social distancing, people will venture to more remote spots away from the watchful eye of lifeguards.

“We are expecting this summer to be the busiest ever for our lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews,” said the RNLI’s head of water safety, Gareth Morrison. “It is a daunting prospect. We want people to enjoy the coast but urge everyone to respect the water, think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.”

Deserted beach.
Quieter beaches such as Tregonhawke Beach in Whitsand Bay, Cornwall, are expected to be busy this summer. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

The RNLI saved 140 lives last summer when crowds flocked to the seaside after the first lockdown, an increase of more than 30% on the same period the previous year.

A survey commissioned by the RNLI ahead of this bank holiday weekend found that 30 million people planned to head to the beach this spring and summer, with about half that number expecting to go three or more times.

More than a third said they planned to visit the coast more than usual this year, compared with just under a quarter when the same question was asked last year. The RNLI and coastguard believe uncertainty over foreign travel will swell numbers that head to UK beaches.

Beach heaving with people.
People flocked to Durdle Door, near Lulworth in Dorset, late last May. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

The RNLI patrols about 245 beaches, but there are more than 700 bathing beaches across the UK. Morrison said the poor May weather had meant a slow start to the season. “But it’s warming up now and we’ll see more people in the water from this weekend.”

Claire Hughes, the director of HM Coastguard, said: “2020 was an exceptionally busy year and we’re expecting more people to take their holidays around our coasts this summer.

“We’re asking everyone to follow a few simple safety tips. Before setting out, take a minute to check the weather, tides and winds. Leave inflatables at home as they are designed for the pool, not open water.”

Beau Gillett
RNLI lifeguard supervisor Beau Gillett at Tregonhawke Beach in Whitsand Bay, Cornwall. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

Beau Gillett, RNLI lifeguard supervisor for Torpoint in east Cornwall, is preparing his colleagues for a hectic time. “Last year it was rammed here when lockdown was lifted,” he said. “We’re expecting the same again this summer.”

Gillett’s patch includes Tregonhawke Beach on Whitsand Bay, which lies at the foot of a 150 metre-high cliff. The most common incidents the lifeguards deal with are visitors getting cut off by tides and people being swept out by rip currents.

Gillett said the poor weather so far this spring meant the beaches had been relatively empty. “But we’ve seen the chalets starting to fill up now and the hotels and campsites tell us they are booked up from this half-term through the whole summer. We are preparing for a very busy season.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK lifeguards gear up for busiest summer as millions head for coast | Travel & leisure

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