Float like a star fish and learn from Finley

Lifeguard at Bournemouth beach. Photo credit: RNLI / Nathan Williams.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) will be busy over the summer with beach lifeguards expecting it to be a bumper year. Children under the age of 13 require the most assistance in the water, so the RNLI’s new seaside safety advert will be broadcast on TV channels with a catchy song reminding those visiting the coast to float like a starfish if they find themselves in difficulty in the water.

Last year, RNLI lifeguards aided a total of 11,959 people during the school summer holidays in England and Wales. Of those, children under the age of 13 were the most assisted age group with 4,968 aided and 16 lives saved.

Use a lifeguarded beach

Steve Instance, from the RNLI Water Safety team said, “To stay safe, we’re reminding families to choose a lifeguarded beach where possible and swim between the red and yellow flags which is the safest area as it is constantly monitored by our highly-trained lifeguards.

“A simple skill we ask everyone of any age to remember is how to float to live if they find themselves in difficulty in the water. Lean back like a starfish, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. This will allow you to control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. The technique has been proven to save lives.”

Someone who knows this well is 11-year-old Finley Hassall. Having travelled from the Midlands with his family, the schoolboy was on holiday in Cornwall and had been catching some waves on his bodyboard when he heard cries for help from another child.

Learning from Finley

Finley explained, “I looked around and saw waves going over this boy’s head and he was splashing and struggling. He was clearly panicking. I’d read in my RNLI Storm Force magazine how to float like a starfish so that’s what I asked him to do.  He went onto his back and I was talking to him and trying to get him to take deep breaths to calm him down. An RNLI lifeguard soon arrived to check we were both ok and helped find the family of the boy before heading off to help two other people.”

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands.

The RNLI is independent of the Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.