The RNLI and HM Coastguard are urging people to visit lifeguarded beaches and take extra care on Friday and Saturday as forecasts predict dangerous sea conditions, involving large swells, strong winds and spring tides.
Across exposed coastal areas in Devon and Cornwall, current forecasts for Friday and Saturday are predicting wave heights between 6-9 feet coupled with strong south westerly winds across the region.
These conditions, alongside large spring tides, can result in a dangerous sea state and increase the risk of strong rip currents.
The RNLI warns that if you see a red flag at a lifeguarded beach, do not enter the water, as it is unsafe for any water activities.
If there are no flags, there are no lifeguards.
Spring tides and surging waves mean people could very easily get cut off by the incoming tide. Anyone heading to the coast over the coming days is reminded of the importance of checking the tide times and ensuring they have enough time to return if they decide to venture further along the beach.
This warning comes as Storm Ellen is expected to bring gale-force winds to the South West region, and a number of weather warnings for strong winds have been issued by the Met Office.
Magic Seaweed also warned earlier this week that surf should be up on beaches in Devon and Cornwall this weekend, with a large summer swell expected to barrel in off the Atlantic.
Surf as high as 15ft is being expected on one south coast surf spot in Cornwall, with 11ft waves hitting beaches in North Devon.
Steve Instance, RNLI water safety lead for the south west said: “When we experience conditions such as this, especially during the summer when the region is busy with visitors, it is incredibly important that those heading to the coast keep themselves safe by choosing a lifeguarded beach and visiting within the patrol hours of 10am-6pm.
“With changeover days for holidaymakers on Fridays and Saturdays, those arriving to the area may not be up to date with local news and forecasts so could be caught unaware of the conditions.
“RNLI lifeguards are there to offer advice so if you are unsure about anything, make sure you ask a lifeguard.
“They will be able to provide information on tide times and guide you to the safest area to swim which will be between the red and yellow flags.
“Anyone surfing should know their limits and always stay within the black and white flagged area.”
Director of HM Coastguard, Claire Hughes, said: “We’ve seen so many times how easy it is to get caught out by the sea.
“Make sure you are always contactable at the coast by carrying a fully-charged mobile phone and if you get into trouble or see someone else in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, RNLI advises you to adhere to the following safety advice:
- Swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore
- Do not try to swim against the rip current or you’ll get exhausted
- Always raise your hand and shout for help
You can find out which beaches are currently being lifeguarded by the RNLI here.