RNLI lifeguards at Croyde rescued 12 people and assisted a another six in an hour on Monday afternoon.
The lifeguards on duty had been keeping an eye on the building swell throughout the morning when they spotted the group get into trouble at around noon.
The whole team was mobilised to assist in the rescue. Ollie Wright and Sam Hayes used the jet ski (RWC) and rescue boards, Michael Taylor, Sean Deasy and volunteer RNLI lifeguard Kane Shaw used rescue tubes and Josh Simpson used a rescue board to bring all 12 caught in the rip back to shore safely.
A further six people were also helped during the rescue.
At 2pm the decision was made to display red flags to prevent people entering the water at Croyde due to the worsening conditions.
Rough conditions around the region saw lifeguards carry out multiple rescues at beaches in Devon and Cornwall, with red flags raised.
Steve Instance, RNLI community safety partner, said: “Having had the beautiful weather and very calm seas over the last couple of months, the change in sea conditions has caught people unawares along the north coast.
“We do not take the decision to display the red flags lightly but conditions on the day meant this was the only option for people’s safety.
“If you are visiting the coast we urge you to always come to a lifeguarded beach and remember to keep an eye on the flags as weather and tide conditions can easily and quickly change.
“The lifeguards on duty are experienced, extremely well-trained and familiar with their local area so please listen to the advice they give.”