BIG surf and strong offshore winds are creating difficult conditions on the beaches along the North Devon and Cornwall coasts, with more 200 people assisted by RNLI Lifeguards in the water yesterday (Thursday) alone. Similar conditions are forecast for th

BIG surf and strong offshore winds are creating difficult conditions on the beaches along the North Devon and Cornwall coasts, with more 200 people assisted by RNLI Lifeguards in the water yesterday (Thursday) alone.

Similar conditions are forecast for the next few days and the charity's lifesavers are urging inexperienced water users to stay within their depth and between the flags.

In North Devon on Croyde and Woolacombe lifeguards helped almost 100 people who had been caught out by the large sets of waves, or dragged out of their depth by the amount of water moving out to sea.

The surf has been pushing five foot or more and similar conditions have prevailed on the north Cornwall beaches of Newquay and Perranporth, where Matt Johnson, RNLI lifeguard supervisor said:

"On sets the surf was easily pushing five foot, which is pretty big, especially if you are just learning.

"But people were taking advantage of the long flat spells between the sets to paddle out back and didn't have the power to cope with the powerful surf when it came through.

"The offshore wind, which was gusting about 4 knots, was also pushing the body boarders further out than they'd rather be, so they too were getting caught in the middle of some big sets."

Last year the RNLI launched its South West Lifeguard Appeal, which aims to raise £500,000 by 2012 towards the £5 million it costs to provide a lifeguard service on 92 beaches across the south west. To support the appeal, visit www.rnli.org.uk/supportourlifeguards.