RNLI lifeguard warning over rise in Devon rescues

Beach lifeguard
Image caption People who take to the water without knowing the risks can get into trouble

People who use Devon's beaches have been urged to put safety first after a record number of rescues last year.

The RNLI said 2009 was its busiest summer season ever in the South West, with a 10% rise in incidents. Beach-related lifeboat launches rose by 12%.

At Croyde and Woolacombe in north Devon, more than 1,000 people were helped in 865 separate incidents.

Across the UK beach lifeguards responded to 13,000 incidents, involving nearly 16,000 people.

The RNLI said children were involved in 60% of the call-outs and bodyboarders and surfers made up more than a third of the incidents.

There has been a big growth in the popularity of watersports, but the RNLI said some people were ill-prepared and unaware of the risks.

Image caption Swimmers should always swim between the guide flags

Matt Whitley, a beach lifeguard at Woolacombe, told BBC News: "More people are taking part in sports such as bodyboarding and surfing and extreme sports can be dangerous in the sea."

The charity is advising people to use guarded beaches, observe safety flags, have the right equipment and seek advice from lifeguards.

Holidaymakers using guarded beaches can ask for a copy of the RNLI On the Beach guide.

The charity has also launched In the Surf, which is a safety guide aimed at surfers, windsurfers, kayakers, canoeists, kite-surfers and paddle boarders.

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