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Off duty RNLI lifeguard rescues Chapel Porth surfer

By WBEsme  |  Posted: March 15, 2014

RNLI lifeguard Jos Lawrence.

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An off duty RNLI lifeguard has rescued a surfer who became caught in a rip current near St Agnes.

Jos Lawrence jumped in to the chilly waters at Chapel Porth yesterday morning to save a stranded surfer.

The 32 year-old from St Agnes who works as a lifeguard during the summer was on the beach when he spotted the man being dragged out to sea.

He said: “It was about an hour before low tide and I knew the conditions were deteriorating quite quickly in the water.

“At Chapel Porth, and other beaches along the north coast, the recent storms have moved the sand around, forming newer and deeper channels through which the rip currents, which are strongest around low tide, are even more powerful.

“My lifeguard training kicked in and I knew instinctively that he would need assistance getting back to shore so I grabbed another surfer’s long board, which is easier to paddle, and headed out to him.

Before leaving the beach Mr Lawrence asked RNLI lifeguard supervisor, Martyn Ward, to call for support from the RNLI lifeboat and coastguard team.

Mr Lawrence said: “I quickly made my way to the surfer, who was composed but understandably a little nervous as to what was happening.

“I encouraged him to keep paddling - not towards the cliffs where it could become even more dangerous, but in a diagonal direction out to sea, where the worst that could happen was that we might have to sit and wait for the lifeboat to come and pick us up.

“As we started to make head way, the waves started breaking and the strength of rip current eased.

“A set of waves came through and I told the surfer to paddle hard to catch one in.

“The first wave tumbled him over, but he managed to get the second wave which took him towards the beach. I caught the next wave and made sure he reached the shore ok.”

The St Agnes RNLI inshore lifeboat crew and the St Agnes coastguard were waiting on the beach for the surfer and Mr Lawrence to return.

The surfer did not need any medical attention.

Ivor Thomas, station manager of the St Agnes coastguard team, said: “St Agnes Coastguard gave the normal safety advice to the casualty about the dangers of the sea and going in when sea conditions are not ideal.

“This was In fact the second time we had been called to this beach for the same thing in the same week.”

Since the incident both the coast guard and the RNLI have warned about the dangers of rip currents due to shifting sand.

Drustan Ward, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said: “To the untrained eye, conditions on Wednesday were good, there was a nice wave and the sun was shining, but the deep channels created by shifting sand on Chapel Porth, and other beaches along the north coast, means the rip currents are really strong.

“The incident on Wednesday had the potential to be extremely serious, but thankfully Jos was able to use his RNLI training to react quickly, backed up by the swift response from the volunteer RNLI crew at St Agnes who would have been called away from their day jobs.

“I’d advise anyone looking to head down to the beach or getting in the water during this welcome spell of weather to take their time to study the conditions, learn to recognise a rip current, speak with locals and more experienced surfers and take extra care.”

For more beach safety information and advice, visit www.rnli.org.uk/beachsafety

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