Hitting the surf: beach safety lessons

'Hit the surf' with the RNLI. INCR
'Hit the surf' with the RNLI. INCR

The RNLI lifeguards are hitting the surf again and bringing their popular beach safety programmes to school children and youth groups in Northern Ireland.

Hundreds of children have already been through the programmes and learned valuable and important advice to keep safe in the water and along the shore, in a fun and interactive way.

Last summer 345,027 people visited the ten RNLI lifeguarded beaches on the Causeway Coast and in County Down.

Of these people 27,043 entered the water while 9,975 took part in surfing or other water leisure actives such as body boarding and kite surfing.

The lifeguards responded to 182 incidents, coming to the aid of 218 people. As well as rescues carried out in the water lifeguards also dealt with falls, first aid and lost children.

The RNLI lifeguarding season has already begun on five beaches along the Causeway Coast and this cover will be extended for the peak summer season from Saturday 25 June through to Sunday 4 September.

In the run up to this and before schools break-up for the summer the RNLI is encouraging primary schools and youth groups to sign-up for its two beach safety education programmes. The ‘Meet the Lifeguards’ and ‘Hit the Surf’ programmes teach young people the importance of beach safety in a fun and practical way.’

‘Meet the Lifeguards’ is an interactive session where RNLI lifeguards visit a school or youth group and teach the children key safety advice that they then put to use when they visit a beach with family and friends. The children learn what the different beach safety flags and signs mean, the safety of using inflatables, the dangers of tombstoning, sun safety and how to identify natural and man-made hazards in and around the water. They will also learn about body boarding and surfing safety and how to escape a rip current. Information on tides and waves is also included in the session.

Alternatively the ‘Hit the Surf’ programme offers a unique opportunity for school children or youth groups to get practical lessons in lifesaving and beach safety at one of the ten RNLI lifeguarded beaches located on the north coast and in Down or inland for the first time, on the shores of Lough Erne in Fermanagh. The session lasts two and a half hours and includes a lesson on staying safe at the beach and explains the role of the RNLI and its lifeguards. It is followed by a lifesaving lesson and learning surf based skills while building the children’s confidence in the sea. They will also learn about local hazards and the beach environment.

Jenny Thompson, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor is encouraging schools and groups to get involved: ‘These popular programmes are free to children and places are filling up fast. They can also be adapted to fit the requirements of different groups and ages. ‘Education and prevention are an important part of the RNLI’s work and ‘Meet the Lifeguards’ and ‘Hit the Surf’ help us as lifeguards to deliver important beach safety advice to young people that makes it interesting and relevant to them. The idea is that the children we educate on safety take that advice and share it with family and friends. They may well be our lifeguards in the very near future.’

For more information on how to book your school onto an RNLI education programme please contact RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Jenny Thompson Tel: 07789924563 or email jenny_thompson@rnli.org.uk