Highest number of lives saved in watersports for 19 years, RNLI reports

New data released by the RNLI reveals that summer 2021 saw the highest number of lives saved during watersport incidents in almost 20 years. This summer 55 lives were saved by volunteer crews, the largest number since 2002, when 72 were saved.

Watersport figures cover members of the public who got into difficulty while bodyboarding, using inflatables, kayaking or canoeing, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, rowing, surfing, swimming, water-skiing, windsurfing and dinghy sailing.

Compared to five years ago, rescues involving those participating in watersports this summer saw a 36 per cent increase in terms of lives saved and a 34 per cent rise in the number of people aided while taking part in watersport activities. 

The RNLI’s statistics also illustrate the increase in popularity of paddleboarding. In 2016, there were just nine lifeboat launches to paddleboarders during the summer with two people being aided. However, this summer, there were 61 lifeboat launches, 13 lives saved, and 83 people aided in total. 

The RNLI’s head of water safety, Gareth Morrison, says: “This year, we saw continued restrictions on foreign travel and hence, more people flocked to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad. 

“But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer, as these figures show.”

Incidents involving swimmers also saw a 10 per cent rise in the number of lives saved and the number of casualties aided more than doubled, compared to 2016. 

Based on provisional incident reports from RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, the period from 1 June to 31 August, also saw the highest number of lives saved overall since 2016, with RNLI volunteers saving 176 lives in total. 

Morrison adds: “Over the coming months, as the temperature drops, sea conditions will also become rougher and more unpredictable. If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

“If you do find yourself in the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE by fighting your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float until you gain control of your breathing, before deciding whether to call for help or swim to safety.”

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