New Sidmouth Lifeguard Service launched for summer season

Andrew Dean, Lifeguard project manager and Lifeboat trustee

Andrew Dean, Lifeguard project manager and Lifeboat trustee - Credit: Sidmouth Lifeboat

Sidmouth Independent Lifeboat is to provide lifeguard cover at Sidmouth Beach this summer. 

The new Sidmouth Lifeguard Service, which has been made possible with support from the RNLI and East Devon District Council, will launch in July this year to coincide with the summer tourist season, it was announced this week.

Qualified surf lifeguards will monitor and guard the area of Sidmouth Beach between the eastern side of Chit Rocks and Bedford Steps.

Phil Shepperd, operations manager at Sidmouth Lifeboat, said: “We’ll have a team of lifeguards on duty from 10am until 6pm every day from Monday, July 19, 2021 until Sunday, September 5, covering the school summer holidays, which is the busiest time for Sidmouth Beach.”

Sidmouth Lifeboat has been on the lookout for the right people to join the new team of lifeguards. 

Andrew Dean, Lifeboat trustee and lifeguard project manager, said: “We put the call out for new recruits on social media and instantly had an influx of applications, mostly from local young people, which was brilliant to see.

“Successful applicants will attend a week's training with us from 21st June, to obtain the SLSGB Surf Lifeguard qualification, followed by a two-day casualty care and advanced first aid course to make sure they are ready to manage any situation that may arise on the beach this summer.”

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The Lifeguard Service will be located on Sidmouth main beach, just below the far western end of the Esplanade, and will be fully kitted out, with a custom-built trailer due to be completed in time for the July start.

As well as working alongside Sidmouth Lifeboat, the lifeguard service is liaising closely with the RNLI in developing comprehensive operational procedures and risk assessments. 

Andrew said: “As we are starting from scratch this year, it is important to learn as much as we can from both organisations’ experiences.” 

Councillor Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council portfolio holder for coast, country and environment, said: "Providing safe bathing beaches in East Devon is most important to the council. Due to the continued restrictions on foreign holidays and staycations, this is even more important as we experience many more visitors who are new to the area. Therefore, I am really pleased that EDDC, Sidmouth Lifeboat and the RNLI have worked together to provide lifeguard cover at Sidmouth beach for the first time in many years." 

The Herald recently highlighted the need for caution when bathing in the sea at Sidmouth as beach-goers Gary Vinnicombe and his nephew Jack Dunn discovered after being caught out by a riptide during their last visit. 

Gary said of this week's announcement: “This is brilliant news, I'm 100 per cent certain the lifeguard service will save lives as when I went back to work a colleague of mine said that he regularly takes his young family to the very same spot and never knew there could be rip tides there in shallow water.

"His wife also said that one of her friends got into trouble there and they had to be rescued by the lifeboat.

“If there were red warning flags we wouldn't have entered the sea. I urge families to always check safety notices on beaches, as I never thought I would be caught out.”

Jack’s mother, Jodie Blain, said: “It's very reassuring to know that they are starting the Lifeguard Service. I’m very grateful for the knowledge and experience they will bring to Sidmouth beach.”

The new lifeguard service will be provided by Sidmouth Lifeboat on a voluntary basis, as part of the independent charity’s remit to promote safety at sea, on the beach and along the coastline.

Safety advice from Sidmouth Independent Lifeboat:
Even though it might be a lovely sunny day, strong winds can make conditions unsafe. When enjoying Sidmouth Beach, please be aware that easterly winds can cause strong rip currents to occur between the beach and the rock islands. Don’t get caught out by a rip - do not swim in this area.

Please leave the inflatables at home, they are not designed for the sea. Ebbing tides, strong currents and winds can swiftly carry an inflatable out to sea.

Please check sea conditions are suitable before entering the water, with or without inflatables. The weather and sea conditions can be very unpredictable along the coastline.

What to do if you find yourself caught in a rip:
If you do find yourself caught in a rip, swim parallel to the shore until you are free of the rip and then head for shore. Always raise your hand and shout for help. If you see anyone else in trouble, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

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