Lifeboats News Release
Wednesday 17 May 2023
Over the last five years, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has seen a surge in people heading out on their paddleboards. In 2022, RNLI lifeguards and lifeboat crews responded to 1,465 incidents, more than double* in comparison to 2021.
In recent years, stand-up paddleboarding has increased in popularity as an accessible and enjoyable activity for many, particularly since 2020.
The RNLI’s lifesaving figures show:
- Over the past five years, RNLI lifeboat volunteers have helped save the lives of 77 stand up paddleboarders, with 32 lives saved last year.
- In 2022, RNLI lifeguards saw a staggering 155% rise in paddleboarding incidents compared with 2021 while volunteer lifeboat crews saw an increase of 20%.
- In 2018, the charity’s lifeguards responded to 247 paddleboarding incidents compared to 1,290 last year, a 422% increase over the past five years.
The RNLI has 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. The group are encouraging those heading out on the water to:
- Wear a buoyancy aid
- Carry a phone in a waterproof pouch
- Wear the correct leash
- Avoid offshore winds
Samantha Hughes, RNLI Water Safety Partner, said:
“The best way to enhance your time on the water is to have a stand-up paddleboard lesson. You will learn useful techniques including tips to help you get back on the board. 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.”
Sheena Thompson from Inverness, Scotland was rescued by the Wick volunteer lifeboat crew last year while out on her paddleboard.
Sheena said: “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.
“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.
“The volunteers from Wick were really helpful and they told me how I can stay safe when paddleboarding in the future, which made me really want to share my 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.”
For more information on paddleboards and how to keep safe, visit the RNLI’s paddleboarding safety page: https://rnli.org/safety/choose-your-activity/stand-up-paddle-boarding