RNLI issues paddleboard warning as rescue stats jump

The RNLI has announced that in 2022, its lifeguards saw a staggering 155 per cent rise in paddleboarding incidents (compared with 2021) while volunteer lifeboat crews saw an increase of 20 per cent.

Now, with the surge in the sport’s popularity – and the alarming statistic that over the past five years, RNLI lifeboat volunteers have helped save the lives of 77 stand up paddleboarders, with 32 lives saved last year alone – the organisation’s teamed-up with 12 expert training agencies and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) across the UK and Ireland to develop and promote four key safety messages for paddleboarders. None of them are rocket-science. It’s pretty much the old tried and tested advice to wear a buoyancy aid, carry a phone in a waterproof pouch, avoid offshore winds and also to wear the correct leash.

Last year, the charity’s lifeguards responded to 1,290 paddleboarding incidents, a 422 per cent increase over the 247 incidents in 2018.

Sheena Thompson from Inverness, Scotland is one of those 2022 stats. She was rescued by the Wick volunteer lifeboat crew.

“I started to head out on my paddleboard from the shore, but the wind started to push me out very quickly. I shouted to my family on the shore to say I was in trouble, but they couldn’t hear me,” says Thompson.

“For a while, I tried to get back to shore but my arms got really tired and sore. I realised that I couldn’t swim anymore, and I couldn’t really hold onto the board very well if I’d fallen off. So, I just laid down flat on the board and I hoped and prayed someone would come and save me.

“I soon heard a chug chug chug in the water and saw the bright orange of the RNLI lifeboat, so I knew I was safe. I was quickly pulled aboard and reunited with my family.”

Thompson says she really wants to share her story and tell people “that it can take one wrong choice, and you can drown. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the RNLI because I never would’ve survived without them.”

A 17-year old girl has recently rescued by a containership after being swept out to sea on a paddle board. Erica Vicente was standup paddleboarding just off the beach in Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal, when strong winds reportedly swept her away from the shore, leaving her unable to paddle back.

Samantha Hughes, RNLI water safety partner, is a keen advocate of newbie paddleboarders having a lesson. “You will learn useful techniques including tips to help you get back on the board,” she says. “You’ll also develop your skills and knowledge of how to understand the environment such as wind and tidal information. This will set you up for future paddling.

“We’ve seen a huge rise in incidents to paddleboarders over the last few years and a significant number are to people who have been blown or swept out to sea. If you find yourself in difficulty at the coast, please call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

Images and video courtesy of RNLI.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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