Watersports boom sees highest life-saving incidents in almost 20 years

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Watersports boom sees highest life-saving incidents in almost 20 years
Watersports boom sees highest life-saving incidents in almost 20 years. Image - RNLI

New data has revealed summer 2021 saw the highest number of lives saved during watersport incidents since 2002.

New data released by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has revealed summer 2021 saw the highest number of lives saved during watersport incidents since 2002. The 55 lives saved this summer by volunteer crews was the largest number since 72 lives were saved in 2002.

Based on provisional incident reports from RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, the period from 1 June to 31 August, also saw the highest number of lives saved overall since 2016, with RNLI volunteers saving 176 lives in total.

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Compared to five years ago, rescues involving those participating in watersports this summer saw a 36 per cent increase in terms of lives saved and a 34 per cent rise in the number of people aided while taking part in watersport activities.

Watersport figures cover people who got into difficulty while bodyboarding, using inflatables, kayaking or canoeing, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, rowing, surfing, swimming, water-skiing, windsurfing and dinghy sailing.

The RNLI’s statistics also illustrate the huge increase in popularity in paddleboarding. In 2016, there were just nine lifeboat launches to paddleboarders during the summer with two people being aided. However, this summer, there were 61 lifeboat launches, 13 lives saved, and 83 people aided in total.


Incidents involving swimmers also saw a 10 per cent rise in the number of lives saved and the number of casualties aided more than doubled, in comparison to 2016.

The RNLI’s Head of Water Safety, Gareth Morrison, said: “This year, we saw continued restrictions on foreign travel and hence, more people flocked to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad.”

“But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer as these figures show.”


The RNLI’s 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland remain on call 24/7 to respond in an emergency to anyone in distress at sea.

Gareth Morrison added: “Over the coming months, as the temperature drops, sea conditions will also become rougher and more unpredictable. If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.”

“If you do find yourself in the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE by fighting your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float until you gain control of your breathing, before deciding whether to call for help or swim to safety.”


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Laura is from a small seaside town in North Wales and has also lived in Liverpool and Manchester, where she studied English Literature and worked in social media and marketing. Laura moved to the city of Zaragoza last August to teach English, but after missing the coast she decided to move to beautiful Nerja to enjoy the sun and sea. Laura has a passion for animals, films, outdoor activities, writing and the environment.

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