RNLI/Nathan Williams



A day in the life

of a lifeguard


Ilfracombe's next door neighbour is Woolacombe Beach, recently awarded Best Beach by the Sunday Times. Not only is the beach undeniably beautiful it is also the nearest beach to Ilfracombe which has RNLI lifeguards.


This year the RNLI are celebrating twenty years of lifeguards on beaches. During this times, they have saved an incredible 1,681 lives, and gone to the assistance of 320,087 people!


Photo: RNLI


We spoke to Alfie Berry, a Woolacombe Beach lifeguard about what it is like to be on duty on such a busy beach.


How do you spend your day as a Lifeguard?


"Whether it’s quiet or busy we keep eyes on at all times, a lifeguard's job involves a lot of sitting and watching. On quieter days we are able to train more, spending a lot of time in the sea is important to keep fitness levels high and maintain a good skill set this could be swimming, on a rescue board or our motor craft (Inflatable Rescue Boat - IRB or Rescue Water Craft - RWC).


"A high level of fitness is important so exercising as part of each day is encouraged. We also do casualty care scenarios on these quieter days to get us ready for the peak summer madness. On the busier days this training is put to the test, throughout the day Lifeguards will be in and out of the water performing rescues and doing preventative work, as well as this responding to any incidents on the beach."

What is your priority as a lifeguard?


"Our primary priority is keeping the water population safe, we focus heavily on prevention work; moving our flagged areas in relation to sea state and keeping people between them. We also provide First Aid and deal with lost and found children."


Keeping Watch

Photo: North Devon RNLI Lifeguards facebook page

Woolacombe Lifeguards 
Photo: North Devon RNLI Lifeguards facebook page



What sort of people become lifeguards?


"People who love the sea! We employ from the local surf lifesaving clubs and from the wider surfing community, meaning our team members have a high level of water skills before starting the job. Lifeguards have to be trustworthy and dependable and have a passion for what we do."


What was the most memorable rescue in which you were involved?


"One I remember from a few years ago at Woolacombe I was doing board training on a quiet day with small surf. I noticed a man begin to panic about 15 meters away from me, I paddled towards him and by the time I got there he had begun to ‘climb the ladder’ (a common action when struggling to stay afloat). As I reached him he started to go under I grabbed him by the arm and was able to pull him onto the board. We returned to shore and he was safe and well. This rescue reinforced my knowledge on how quickly people can start to panic, even on the most seemingly safe days."



What do the lifeguard flags mean?


You can swim between the red and yellow flags

You can surf between the black and white flags
A red flag means stay out of the water, it is too dangerous

What do beach-goers need to remember in terms of keeping themselves safe during a day at the beach?


"Swim between the flags; the red and yellow flags are for swimmers and body boarders, the black and white flags are for any hard craft like surfboards.


"Our local beaches have strong rip currents so lifeguards use their local knowledge to make sure the flags are positioned in the safest place possible. If you do become stuck in a rip it is important to remain calm, keep hold of what is floating with you, raise one arm in the air and shout for help.


"If you are visiting the beach with children make them aware of the lifeguard base so if they get lost they know where is safe to find help. Also remember we are here to help, please come and ask questions if you want any more information."