The RNLI has asked anyone visiting the beach to take extra care this Easter weekend as it releases a list of beaches with lifeguard cover in Cornwall.
With the school holidays coinciding with a relaxation in lockdown travel and outdoor socialising rules in many areas, the RNLI has urged the public to take care if they visit the coast as, despite some recent warm weather, sea temperatures remain at their coldest this time of year.
Steve Instance, RNLI water safety manager for the south west, said: “Although the roll-out of our lifeguard service starts this weekend, they can’t be everywhere, so people need to think about their own safety and what they would do in an emergency.
“Coastal areas provide a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open space but it is important to remember it can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment, particularly during spring and early summer when air temperatures may be warm but water temperatures remain dangerously cold, increasing the risk of cold water shock.
“We are reminding anyone planning to enter the water to take extra care and avoid unnecessary risks as early season conditions are more challenging.”
RNLI lifeguards will be on 22 beaches across the south west from Friday, April 2 to April, 18.
In Cornwall these are: Sennen, Porthmeor, Gwithian, Hayle, Praa Sands, Porthtowan, Perranporth, Fistral, Towan, Watergate, Mawgan Porth, Constantine, Harlyn, Polzeath, Widemouth and Summerleaze.
However, with a huge number of other beaches not having cover yet, Mr Instance said basic precautions could greatly reduce the risk of getting into difficulty, whatever the activity, and would also improve your chance of being found quickly should you find yourself in trouble.
For activities like kayaking and stand up paddleboarding the RNLI recommends you carry a means of calling for help, such as a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch, and ensure you are wearing the right kit for the water temperature.
Mr Instance said: “A wetsuit will keep you warm and help you float in an emergency although wearing an appropriate buoyancy aid or lifejacket is still vital. For open water swimmers and dippers, please also remember to acclimatise slowly and be visible with a brightly coloured hat or float.”
And he warned that not everyone who finds themselves in trouble in the water expects to be there.
“In a normal year, around 150 people lose their lives at the coast and we know that more than half of those never intended to be in the water,” added Mr Instance.
“If you find yourself in trouble in cold water, your natural reaction can be to panic and thrash around, which increases the chances of breathing in water and drowning.
“The best thing to do in this situation is to float on your back and wait for the effects of cold water shock to pass, keeping your airway clear until you can control your breathing. You can then plan your next move to reach safety.
“If you or someone else is in trouble, always call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.”
The RNLI’s 238 lifeboat stations have remained operational throughout the pandemic and will continue to launch around the clock where there is risk to life.