Surfers could hold key to saving lives, reckon lifeguards

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LIFEGUARDS believe North Tyneside’s surfers’ knowledge of the borough’s coastline could help them keep beach-goers safe.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is hoping surfers will help them carry out potentially life-saving research into rip currents in the North Sea.

The call follows the rescue of four teenagers caught in a rip current at Tynemouth Long Sands on Sunday – 11 days after another four youngsters were rescued by two kayakers after getting into difficulties off the same beach.

The two incidents came after a warning about the currents issued by lifeguards via the News Guardian just days earlier following another rescue.

Lifeguards Will Hogg and Sandy Kerr, pictured, were patrolling the beach on Sunday when they saw a rip current – a fast-moving channel of water flowing away from the beach – appearing in the water at the north end of the beach.

Sandy said: “The teenagers had entered the water outside of the safe-swim zone, marked by the red and yellow flags, when they got into trouble.

“Will and I were on our way to advise them about the safest place to swim when one of them got caught in the rip current.

“He was about 50 metres off shore, and the current took him even further out.

“I entered the water and used my torpedo buoy to bring him back to shore.”

He added: “Being caught in a rip current is like swimming on a treadmill, and it doesn’t take long for the strongest swimmer to become exhausted.

“We have known rip currents along our coast, in North Tyneside and in Sunderland, so it would be really helpful if the region’s surfers could help us to understand them better.”

The RNLI has teamed up with Plymouth University to launch an online survey and is asking anyone who has been caught in a rip current to tell them about it.

Those taking part will be asked where it happened and how they got out of it.

The information gathered will be used in future public safety information campaigns.

Statistics show that 38 per cent of sea-based incidents that RNLI lifeguards dealt with nationwide last year were due to rip currents.

Adam Wooler, the RNLI’s head of coastal safety and research, said: “Rip currents are consistently one of the biggest causes of incidents that the RNLI’s lifeguards deal with each year.

“But very little is currently known about how people react when they become caught in one, which means it’s difficult to know how to educate people to avoid getting caught in one in the first place.

“The online survey aims to provide more information about people who get caught in rips, what they understand about them and how they respond.

“Recent studies carried out in Australia have shown that better understanding of how people behave when caught in a rip, and how to teach them to avoid rips, is key to reducing the number of incidents and rescues.”

To take part in the online survey go towww.rnli.org.uk/rip survey

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