Would you have been prepared for an emergency situation like this? 17-year-old Alfie was paddleboarding off the coast of Gwynedd in Wales when he was separated from his board. Thankfully, he was wearing his PFD—doing so undoubtedly saved his life. But another safety measure Alfie rightly took when heading out aided in his rescue and survival: putting his phone in a waterproof phone pouch. As a result, he was able to call for help.
This video contains the real-life audio recording of the phone call Alfie had with the coastguard rescue operator, and footage of the rescue effort. A helicopter and lifeboat were dispatched from the nearby RNLI Abersoch Lifeboat Station to search for Alfie while the operator talked him through staying calm and floating on his back as much as possible in the rough waters.
As the video shows, Alfie was successfully rescued, the RNLI volunteers reaching him in a lifeboat and then transferring him to the helicopter which flew him to the hospital. Now the video is being used by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to promote the use of waterproof phone pouches, in addition to other safety precautions that could save the life of someone in a similar situation to Alfie.
The RNLI is a registered charity in England, Wales, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Isle of Man, and the Bailiwick of Guernsey and Alderney, that is dedicated to saving lives at sea. They do so through providing education and rescue services. Since 1843, their lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 140,000 lives.
The RNLI website provides many helpful articles about safety precautions to take when undertaking different activities on or near bodies of water, as well as instructions on what to do in emergency situations, such as this article about How To Call For Help At Sea. They also sell safety items, such as waterproof phone pouches, on their website.
Alfie’s experience is an important reminder to brush up on your paddling safety knowledge and skills. The United States Coast Guard and the Water Sports Foundation recommend the following safety measures to paddlers:
- Always wear your life jacket (and for paddleboarders, wear your leash)
- Know your limits
- Carry the paddling essentials
- Plan for changing weather conditions
- Take a paddling class
- Dress for immersion
- Tell a friend
- Make yourself seen
More details on these points can be found here. For more resources, read all the articles in our Safer Paddling Campaign.