Windsurfing Magazine





RNLI surf experts warn extreme sports enthusiasts

Watersport and beach safety experts from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution are issuing a warning to extreme sports enthusiasts following the release of the charity’s 2006 rescue statistics that show launches to surf sport incidents have increased by over 15 per cent.

RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards have responded to more surf sports enthusiasts (wind/kite/board surfing, jetskiing and canoeing) than in 2005 for incidents such as sail failure, man overboard, capsizes, surfers overdue, and abandoned kit.*

Matt Horton is an RNLI lifeguard manager and also a surfer. He comments:

‘RNLI statistics show a worrying increase in the number of incidents that lifeguards and lifeboat crews respond to. Most recently, RNLI lifeboat crews have launched to surfers in trouble in Wales and a kitesurfer in difficulties off Bournemouth, an incident which sadly ended in tragedy.**

‘The fast-growing popularity of these sports will obviously mean there are more people out on the water but these increased figures are concerning. As a charity whose aim is to save lives at sea, the RNLI has a number of safety initiatives in place to help reduce these incident figures.

‘The RNLI’s website – rnli.org.uk – is worth checking out for surfing information about how to steer clear of danger, such as identifying surf conditions and understanding the ‘rules of the waves’, and there are also lots of different safety factsheets for various surf sports. Becoming a member of an organised club is also a great way to pick up useful safety information and to develop skills with advice from experts.’

One such safety initiative pioneered by the charity is the introduction of the role of Lifeboat Sea Safety Officers (LSSOs) – a completely new volunteer role within the RNLI that aims to offer advice and information to the public about how to stay safe on the water.

Ray Barton is a PWC instructor and is also the first RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Sea Safety Officer (LSSO) in Scotland, using his watersport expertise and lifesaving knowledge to advise the public about sea safety issues. He says:

‘The very nature of extreme sports is that they carry an element of risk – and actually, RNLI lifeboat launches to kitesurfers have increased by over 25 per cent and launches to canoeists by around 40 per cent since last year.

‘I understand why rough weather conditions can be tempting, but people – particularly in strong winds and cold seas – can become tired and vulnerable very quickly when things start to go wrong. It concerns me just how many people go to sea without following basic safety advice, which the RNLI offers free of charge.’

There are currently 27 RNLI LSSOs at lifeboat stations around the UK and Republic of Ireland and the aim is to have an LSSO at each RNLI lifeboat station around the coast (232).

Ray continues with some general watersports safety advice:

· ‘Check the weather and tides before you set out
· Ensure your kit is complete and in good condition – wear a lifejacket, and when jetskiing check the engine and fuel 
· Make sure you go with a friend or let someone know where you are and when you’ll be back
· Carry a means of communication – for example a VHF handheld radio, mini flares or a mobile phone in a waterproof bag
· Write your contact details on your equipment – if you lose your equipment at sea, report that you are safe to the rescue services so that they don’t spend time looking for you
· If you see anybody in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

For more information on watersport safety, along with beach and sea safety, phone 0800 328 0600, email seasafety@rnli.org.uk or visit rnli.org.uk for downloadable factsheets.


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