Our guide to staying safe on the beach, on the water, and knowing the RNLI beach flag system.
North Devon is renowned for its beautiful coastline and whether you’re enjoying a day of sunshine on the beach, dipping in the surf or trying your hand at coasteering, it’s important to keep safe. RNLI lifeguards patrol Woolacombe, Croyde and Westward Ho! beaches in North Devon.
Whatever the weather, make sure you plan ahead for a trouble free trip to the beach, and if you do see someone in trouble dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
Know your flags
Red Flag: This means it’s dangerous to swim.
Red and yellow flag: This means lifeguards are on patrol and you should swim in the area between these flags.
Black and white flag: This means it’s an area used by surfers only and is not suitable for swimming.
Stay safe at the beach
• Always tie inflatables to the shore and make sure children are in easy reach at all times. Rubber rings and inflatable toys and boats can easily drift miles out to sea with just a light breeze.
• Keep clear of any cliff edges as they can be slippery when they get wet – some of the cliffs around Devon are very high and can give way under foot.
• Always swim close to the beach, in line with the shore.
• Don’t drink and drown. Eating and drinking before swimming may give you cramps while you’re in the water – you may then be unable to get back to shore.
• Check the weather and tides before you leave home – then you won’t get swept away.
• Check the beach when you arrive and beware of rocks and breakwater.
• Look out for the warning signs and flags.
• Avoid rip tides and strong under-surface currents which can carry you out to sea. Calmer waters between areas of surf usually mean dangerous rip currents.
Stay safe on the water
• Plan your trip carefully – remember to leave details of where you’re going and timescales with friends or a family member on shore. If you’re then overdue there will be someone who can alert the Coastguard.
• Triple check the weather, safety equipment and your boat before you set sail. Make sure you have the correct lifejacket on board for each person and that everyone wears a lifejacket at all times.
• Always carry spare fuel, a paddle, plenty of water and food, just in case you are caught short.
• Sail within your limits and ability.
• Make sure everyone on board knows how to use the boat’s safety equipment.
• Ensure you have an appropriate means of communication should the worst happen and you find the need to contact the Coastguard.