Sea, sand and lifesavers: how the RNLI has your back


Jenni Doggett

Lifeguards are a reassuring presence on many UK beaches – on hand to respond to emergencies big and small. Jenni Doggett spends a day with the team at Harlyn Bay

A near perfect sandy semi-circle, bound by rocky, grass-carpeted cliffs and a coastal path to nearby Padstow: Harlyn Bay is certainly one of north Cornwall’s prettiest beaches. It’s also one of the safest – not just because of the shelter the bay offers from the powerful swells, but also because of the RNLI lifeguard team who patrol its shores daily.

To find out just what goes into being an RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeguard, I’m spending the day with the Harlyn Bay team. Torquay-born Joel Wain has served eight years as a lifeguard, while former surf instructor Seb Scott-Bray is in his first season. Along with Jack Ralphs – at 19, the youngest recruit – they ready the day’s kit and run the engine of their inshore rescue boat, or IRB. Preparation and maintenance is an essential part of the routine; the reliability of equipment can be the difference between life and death.

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