RNLI contoversy rages on as lifeguards stuck in limbo

The sun shines, the sea sparkles and the beaches still have no lifeguard cover. Why not?

Cornwall had two deaths at the weekend, though admittedly one was in a place not normally served by lifeguards.

Bude Surf Life Saving Club which is trying to establish a voluntary lifeguard presence on local beaches sometime soon, says:

Last year on Budes 7 beaches RNLI lifeguards rescued over 500 people, added to the other 241 lifeguarded beaches. In the UK, the number of rescues carried out is a scary amount but highlights the absolute importance of a lifeguard presence on our coastline.

Let there be no mistake, the RNLI volunteers and lifeguards are awesome, but there are criticisms of the RNLI’s CEO and the management which seem well-founded. The CEO, Mark Dowie, seemingly wants to close beaches rather than put lifeguards on them. The RNLI is one of Bude’s favourite charities, but it is not strapped for cash right now.

RNLI Lifeguards - finished for the season at Northcott Beach

Why do we need lifeguards?

Remember, last week there were 9 rescues at Widemouth/Summerleaze in one day by off-duty lifeguards, surfers and the public.

Are people misinformed and sometimes silly at the seaside? Yes.

Do people make mistakes? Yes.

Do people overestimate their ability and under-estimate the power of the sea? Frequently.

Do people become ill at the beach? Yes


Does that mean they don’t deserve to be rescued? No.

Lifeguards, on or off duty, do not think about Covid-19 if they see someone in trouble; they do not think about whether they are (if paid) earning.

They just do their best to save lives which they have trained for because that is the kind of people they are.

Many unemployed RNLI Lifeguards are actively working the beaches without the essential RNLI kit, such as oxygen, which we have heard about on the Cornish coast over the last few days.


We need the lifeguards back pronto. So why aren’t they working?


It’s not down to the wonderful lifeguards. They are available (mainly trained up) and ready to go. It seems to be a management issue where a reduced service will be offered for the key summer months at fewer beaches for a shorter length of time because of ‘logistics, training, etc’ but also a fall in fundraising.

Here’s an article about the CEO’s open letter mentioned on his Facebook page by the Mayor of Bude-Stratton, Bob Willingham. He also said:


The RNLI don’t intend to provide lifeguard cover on Crooklets, Northcott or Sandymouth this year with a reduced cover on Widemouth and Summerleaze.

I’ve just been to Crooklets to give an interview with ITV Westcountry about the lack of lifeguards on the beaches on a bank holiday. The concern by locals who know the how dangerous the sea can be leaves them totally frustrated with the lack of cover. One friend with years of experience has said he will go for a paddle on his board and wait out back in case. Others are walking on the beach advising people of the dangers.

The RNLI have decided to put lifeguards on Widemouth from Sat 30th (presumably May) and Summerleaze from 20th June. I can’t find out why it has been done like that. Who made that call?

Here we have 2 lifeguard supervisors, 12 lifeguards fully qualified (and itching to work) with another 20 qualified who need a couple more ‘ticks’ to be fully qualified. They have been briefed on the new regulations regarding Covid-19. Remember the best action is prevention. The lifeguards that are employed finish their contracts on the 3rd September! Why so early? Last year some lifeguards finished on the 29th September but some were kept on for weekend cover and the half term. We also have a Surf Lifesaving club whose members are waiting to get involved but can’t while the RNLI man the beaches.






  • P.G.Penna says:

    So what you are basically saying is the RNLI lifeguards should put their lives and their families at risk so that the shops that are open can make money and the people that use the beaches and cannot read then warning signs can go into the sea once again we see profit go before lives?
    The one question I would like to ask is: How much revenue does Bude town council allocate to the RNLI each year?

  • I’m saying that people are going to the beach anyway as the government has told them they are allowed to.

    I’m saying that currently, the only lifeguarding on offer is by volunteers.

    I’m saying that from my reading, most lifeguards are keen to get back to work with proper protocols in place.

    I’m saying that there seems to be a mismatch between RNLI management and the people who do the work.

    I am not saying that lifeguards should go back to work so that shops can make money.

    I am not saying profit should go before lives.

    I am not saying that we should judge people for risks taken/not reading signs, etc.

    I’m mainly informing you about the issues, I think.

  • D.Jeffery says:

    Agree people are allowed on the beach, they don’t have to go in the sea. What did we do before the days of lifeguards, we used our heads.

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