If you're unsure of the sea conditions, trust your instincts and stay out

'If in doubt, stay out' is the message from one young surfer who had to be rescued when a day’s surfing went wrong on the North Cornish coast. 

Ella Baston had been successfully trying her hand at surfing while on holiday with friends. But on her third outing, it went wrong… Recalling the events of May 28, Ella hopes her story may prevent others from being seriously injured or losing their lives. 


When Ella and her friends arrived at Porthcothan Beach they looked out for the area of water marked as safe and made sure they were within sight of the lifeguard. A decision she would later be very grateful for.

Ella said: “I struggled with my board to get over the whitewash and out to the waves. I was walking with my board and hadn’t realised we had drifted away from between the flags marking the safe swimming area and towards the rocks until I heard one of my other friends shouting out to me. 

“All of a sudden my boyfriend was thrown by a wave into the rocks and then thrown back into the water. I was waving my hands to get help but before I knew it, I was no longer touching the ground and was caught in a rip current being pushed out further to sea. I tried swimming but was getting nowhere. 

Ella and her friends had been careful to select a lifeguarded beach. 


She said: “That decision saved my life. The lifeguard reached me and managed to get me onto his board, but the sea threw us around and dragged us both under the water. He managed to get me up onto the rocks. 

He kept me calm and helped me with my breathing, he was watching out for the waves and telling me when to breath to avoid swallowing in the water. The sea just changed in moments; it was all so quick. 

Ella and the lifeguard were rescued from the rocks by the Newquay search and rescue helicopter and Ella was airlifted to hospital. Thankfully Ella was given the all-clear after being thoroughly checked over.  

Ella said: “If we hadn’t been on a lifeguarded beach the outcome that day may have been very different. If anyone is going to the beach in the summer, I’d say only enter the water if a lifeguard is on duty if you can.

Surfing can be great fun and I don’t want to put people off trying the sport, but my experience has shown me that if you're feeling at all unsure about the sea conditions then don’t go in.  

“If you do get into trouble, try to stay calm and raise an alarm to alert others. Stay with your board and don’t try to swim against a rip current.” 
  • Have a plan - check the weather forecast, tide times and let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back.
  • If you get in trouble in the water, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float.
  • If you get in trouble or see someone that needs help at the coast, always call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

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