FLOODING, wind, and scorching temperatures led to one of the busiest years for RNLI lifeboat and lifeguard crews across the South West.
Lifeboats in the region were launched 1,449 times, with 1,450 rescues, and 34 lives saved, according to official statistics.
The busiest station was Falmouth, which rescued 89 people. But Newquay was not far behind, with 66 lifeboats launched, and 38 people in need of assistance.
RNLI lifeguards dealt with more than 8,000 incidents on the 57 Cornish beaches they patrolled – nearly 2,000 more than the previous year.
With the largest number of RNLI lifeguarded beaches, Cornwall was the busiest county in the South West, and lifeguards dealt with the most incidents at Perranporth, Gwithian, and North Fistral beaches.
Interactive map of all lifeboat incidents:
The charity said the extreme weather had put a strain on crews, but volunteers had shown “incredible dedication” to saving lives at sea.
Interactive map of all lifeguard incidents:
Andy Hurley, RNLI Regional Operations Manager said: “These volunteers are equipped and trained to respond to all kinds of incidents whatever the weather throws at them.
“However it is a massive commitment, not only for them, but for their families, loved ones and employers who must also become part of the wider RNLI family.”
The biggest problem identified was the rise in popularity of pleasure craft, which accounted for the greatest number of rescues – mainly due to mechanical failure.
The RNLI has recommended that those going boating or enjoying other water sports should know the basic methods of starting, running and maintaining their engine and other equipment.
The charity has also advised anyone going afloat to wear a well-fitted lifejacket and know how to operate it should an emergency situation unfold.
Other concerns were the number of incidents where people were swept out to sea on inflatables, as well as those who were cut off by incoming tides.
Mr Hurley added: “There were nearly 12 million visitors to RNLI patrolled beaches in the south west during 2013. That’s a staggering number so it’s not surprising that it was a busy time for the RNLI lifeguards on patrol.
“As well as reacting to incidents which happened on the beach and in the water, including major and minor first aids and missing children, they also worked extremely hard to keep the estimated 1.3 million bathers between the red and yellow safety flags safe.”