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RNLI calls on kayakers to share stories of serious incidents at sea in new research to help save lives

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is calling on kayakers and canoeists who have experienced or witnessed a serious incident at the coast or on the sea to share their experiences as part of a new study that could help the charity save more lives.

The RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards rescue thousands of people and save hundreds of lives annually, but around 190 people still die at the UK and Irish coasts each year. Between 2011 and 2015, 18 people died while kayaking and canoeing around the UK1, while the RNLI’s lifeboat crews launched 311 times to rescue kayakers and canoeists  in 2015 alone2.

The RNLI is aiming to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024 and is running a range of drowning prevention programmes. To help develop these initiatives, the RNLI has commissioned NatCen Social Research (an independent research organisation), to conduct new research to better understand what leads up to and may contribute to serious coastal incidents, including those which result in self-rescue, rescue, or are fatal.

The research will involve carrying out interviews with survivors and witnesses of serious coastal water-related incidents to help the RNLI understand more about how potentially life-threatening situations arise, and what can be done to avoid them.

Participants must be aged 18 or over and have witnessed or experienced an incident at sea or on the coast where they felt someone’s life was at risk or a life was lost. NatCen would like to speak with people who have experienced and/or seen an incident between 2012–2016 in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

The interview will cover areas such as those involved in the incident, what happened and its impact, as well as suggestions for preventing similar incidents in the future. The interviews will be conducted by an independent and experienced NatCen researcher at a time and place convenient for the participant. Details that could identify individuals will be kept confidential and findings will be anonymised.

Julia Yates, RNLI Community Safety Research Manager says, “The RNLI aims to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024 but, to do this, we need to understand more about how and why fatal or near-fatal incidents happen. We’re calling on members of the public who have experienced an incident where someone has lost or nearly lost their life to help us by getting in touch and taking part in this research.

“We can assure people all details will be treated with complete confidentiality. By sharing their experiences they will help us develop our lifesaving programmes and therefore play an important role in saving more lives around our coasts.”

The findings will be published later this year and the report will be publically available on the RNLI and NatCen websites.

For more information about taking part in this research or NatCen, please visit or

  • 1. RNLI analysis of WAID UK fatalities, accidental and natural causes, only 2011-15 coastal dataset.
  • 2. RNLI lifeboat return of service data UK and Republic of Ireland, 2015.
About thepaddlerezine (654 Articles)
Editor of The Paddler magazine and Publisher of Stand Up Paddle Mag UK.

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