A mass rescue was carried out at one of Cornwall's top surfing spots after a powerful rip current appeared in the middle of the beach.

At 1pm on Tuesday RNLI lifeguards at Fistral beach in Newquay were involved in the rescue of 16 people on surf and bodyboards, as the tide was going out.

Lifeguard Liv Harwood was the first to respond and headed straight to the casualties on her rescue board.

Once Liv began to help the first few onto her board, she called for some assistance from the rest of the team as she could see more people were being pulled into the path of the current.

Lifeguard Ben Temme quickly paddled over on a rescue board, whilst lifeguard Stuart Weatherly was on the rescue water craft helping to pick people up and bring them back to safety.

The conditions on Fistral were sunny, with 2ft to 4ft surf and lots of people in the sea. At the time of the incident the team already had three lifeguards patrolling on rescue boards in the water, in preparation for any sudden change.

Arron Evans, senior lifeguard at Fistral, has now explained how the rip current became very powerful. He said: "At the moment on Fistral there is a deep trench that runs across the middle of the beach. The big tides combined with today’s surf conditions meant that when the tide was going out, a really strong rip current started to pull out to sea."

Whilst Liv, Ben and Stuart were helping surfers who’d been pulled out to sea from the black and white flags (surf zone), lifeguard George Murphy was assisting some bodyboarders who were drifting away from the red and yellow flags towards the rip, and making sure all the swimmers were safe.

And this wasn't the first rescue of the day. Earlier, at around 12.15pm, lifeguard Lesley Dawson was on a board patrol in the water when she three men surfing who had been caught out in a rip current and struggling to return to shore.

In total the RNLI lifeguard team at Fistral came to the aid of 19 people caught in powerful rip currents within a couple of hours that day.

Arron added on Tuesdsay: "Today has proven just how powerful rip currents can be, and how quickly you could find yourself caught out by one. That’s why it's so important to head to a lifeguarded beach and swim and bodyboard between the red and yellow flags, or surf between the black and white flags.

"As lifeguards we have the local knowledge of rip currents for the beaches we work on and always prepare according to the conditions of the day. Our lifeguards were ready to respond when needed today, as well as warning people of the dangers before they enter the water."

If you ever find yourself caught in a rip current, try to remember the following key safety advice:

  • Don’t try to swim against it, you will quickly get exhausted
  • If you can stand, wade don’t swim
  • If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore
  • If you can’t swim float to live, by leaning back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing
  • Always raise your hand and shout for help
  • If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard