In summer 2015 the club began augmenting the existing RNLI lifeguard patrols at Trevaunance Cove with our own qualified and experienced volunteers. Rather than sitting on the side-lines these volunteers play an active role in patrolling including radio, first aid and educational work.
The relationship is of mutual benefit, the RNLI benefit from the additional resource and the club members benefit from the experience of the professional guards and the opportunity to be part of a real life-saving team. For members wishing to go on to become professional lifeguards this experience is invaluable.
In Easter 2016, thanks to much hard work behind the scenes from Fi and Martyn, we were able to take things a stage further and begin operating our own voluntary patrols at Trevaunance Cove. Our aim was to achieve a level of professionalism equal to the patrols operated by the RNLI, with a full complement of qualified lifeguards and the equipment to support the role. This was the first time in over 20 years the club had operated it’s own patrol and was a steep learning curve! In bringing this to fruition we were supported by members of both the local RNLI Beach Lifeguard unit and the RNLI Lifeboat team, it truly was a community effort.
As luck would have it, conditions for our patrol were extreme! The swell from the “Easter Storm” (Storm Katie) arrived under sunny skies on day two of the patrol meaning a busy beach but massive waves. This closed many other beaches (red flagged) so Trevaunance Cove became the only option for those wishing to enter the sea! Over the 10 days our volunteer guards dealt with a wide range of issues from keeping learner surfers away from a 6 knot rip at low tide to managing the public around a knife incident. In all over 200 people benefitted from the advice and assistance of the volunteer lifeguards over the 10 days. The entire club is immensely proud of and grateful for the efforts of the volunteers in organising and running this patrol.
Over the October half term the club raised the bar again, achieving patrols on an entirely voluntary basis. The RNLI still supported the club by providing behind-the-scenes and supervisory support and we were joined by several members of the Lifeboat crew who had taken their lifeguard qualifications over the summer. It’s great to see different parts of the beach community working together to share experience and make our beach a safer place. Again the patrols went well with much advice given and a couple of incidents where direct assistance was provided to get people back to shore. The excellent kit provided by Finisterre really came into it’s own as, without a truck, we were fully exposed to the elements!
These patrols were recognised by the national governing body for Surf Lifesaving (SLSGB) for both the opportunities they provide for club members and their impact on public safety. Following the Easter patrols several meetings took place with the SLSGB with the aim of taking the “St Agnes Model” national. This resulted in a new Framework for Lifeguarding that sets out a new pragmatic, iterative approach to patrolling with the aim of enabling community groups to contribute regardless of qualification.
In 2018 the club’s project “Safer Beaches for All” was recommended by the Big Lottery scheme for a People’s Project award. This put our project to a public vote which, thanks to massive local support, and a great deal of work by Andy, we won! One element of this project was funding better kit to support our patrol volunteers including: our own first responder bag with Oxygen and portable AED, better wet weather gear, new radios, binoculars and a patrol vehicle.
We hope to continue to grow the number of qualified volunteers in our community to make sure the patrols are sustainable and don’t fall to the same few people each year. Regardless of our own capability we’re going to keep close co-operation with the RNLI lifeguards as having experienced professionals as part of the team is of benefit to everyone.
The club will assist financially any member who commits their time to community lifesaving by subsidising the necessary training and exam fees. Our popular adult evenings at the beach throughout summer are a great opportunity to come down and train with the club (member or not) and see if surf lifesaving is for you. Our flexible approach to patrolling also values those who can contribute skills outside the traditional scope of surf-lifesaving. If you’d like to apply your knowledge of the beach to help others, get in touch about our Observational Lifeguard course, you don’t even have to get your feet wet!
After the Easter patrols we identified where additional spending could increase the impact of our patrols but we don’t think the cost of patrolling should fall to our members. If increased fees discouraged families from joining and benefitting from training then the overall impact of our efforts on the safety of the beach community could be counter productive. So, if you’ve got any great ideas for a fundraiser or would like to help support the efforts of our volunteers we’d love to hear from you.