How to choose safest South West beach to visit on your staycation

RNLI lifeguard on beach patrol.

The RNLI is urging visitors to use lifeguarded beaches. - Credit: RNLI Nathan Williams

As a survey reveals a staggering 30 million people are planning a summer beach visit, the RNLI has launched its safety campaign for the South West 

The RNLI’s new campaign – in conjunction with HM Coastguard – comes as the charity’s lifeguards and lifeboat crews across the South West prepare for the busy summer ahead as people choose to ‘staycation’ due to continued uncertainty over foreign holidays and international travel.  

A new study reveals around 30 million people plan to visit the UK coast this summer. In the survey, commissioned by the RNLI, 75% of those questioned - aged 16-64 - expect to visit a UK beach or the coast between April and September, with around half of that number likely to do so three or more times.  In the South West, businesses are gearing up for hundreds of thousands of visitors to the region in July and August, bringing £3.5 billion into the local economy. 

And the new safety campaign urges everyone to choose lifeguarded beaches when they visit the coast. 

Steve Instance, RNLI’s Water Safety Lead for the South West says: “‘Last summer, RNLI lifeguards patrolling beaches across this region recorded nearly nine million visitors. We know the South West is a popular destination for those holidaying at home and with many accommodation providers reporting being at capacity for the summer, we are expecting this year to be the busiest ever. 

An RNLI lifeguard looking through binoculars at the beach.

RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling around 100 beaches across the South West this summer. - Credit: RNLI Nathan Williams

“These new figures back that up. We want people to enjoy the region’s spectacular coastline abut urge everyone to respect the water, think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.  

“Our main advice is to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling around 100 beaches across the South West this summer to offer advice on how to stay safe and they are also there to help anyone who gets into trouble. 

“Coastal areas provide a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open space but they can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment, particularly during early summer when air temperatures start warming up but water temperatures remain dangerously cold, increasing the risk of cold water shock.” 

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Rhian Cleverly, a semi-professional footballer and novice surfer was grateful to have heeded the RNLI’s advice and was on a lifeguarded beach when she became caught on a rip current when learning to surf.  

She reveals: “‘We knew the safest option was to go to a lifeguarded beach, so we went to Crantock and headed in the water. We made sure we went in together as a group and we were having lots of fun.  

“But quite quickly we realised we were drifting right away from the flagged area and further out to sea – the strength of the current was so strong; it was scary how within minutes we were out of our depth and a real distance from where we entered the water. There was no hope of us paddling against the current. 

“Thankfully, within minutes the lifeguards had spotted us and come to our aid. Greg was so calm and helpful, he paddled me back to safety and gave me some extra advice for beginners, to always stay between the black and white flags and to stand up with my feet on the seabed whilst waiting for waves.  

“I am so grateful we chose to head to a lifeguarded beach otherwise that situation could have escalated and quickly become a lot more dangerous.” 

The key summer safety advice is: 

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags 

  • If you get into trouble remember: Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about 

  • Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard 

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

“We’re asking everyone to follow a few simple safety tips, so the trip is memorable for all the right reasons. 

“Before setting out, take a minute to check the weather, tides and winds to help avoid getting caught out.   

“Leave inflatables at home as they are designed for the pool, not open water, where the wind and current can very quickly take you out to sea and into danger. 

“Recreational watersports such as paddleboarding are now incredibly popular and we’d encourage everyone to make it a fun rather than frightening experience.  

“It pays to prepare and taking a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch when you set out for a paddle will mean you can call for help if needed. 

“If you or someone else is in trouble, always call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’ 

A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found here