Day in the life of a Cornish lifeguard

Date Posted: 17 Aug 2021

Last year RNLI lifeguards saved 110 lives, aided 25,172 people and responded to 10,687 incidents. 2021 marks 20 years of RNLI lifeguards. James, better known as Stell, 37, has been a RNLI lifeguard in North Cornwall for over 10 years, and is currently keeping beach goers safe at Northcott Mouth near Bude.

While he assures us that no two days are the same as a lifeguard, and to expect the unexpected, you’ll often find Stell talking to beach goers about safety, reminding those to swim or bodyboard between the flags, pointing out the occasional jellyfish, and in more serious cases, handling first aid.

With a passion for surfing and all things sea, he tells the Good Cornwall Guide, what a day in the life of a Cornish lifeguard is really like…

7am I tend to wake up naturally, and walk to the closest beach to my house, which is Crooklets in Bude. I take a coffee with me (I like it strong with oatmilk) and check out the surf.

8am I’m back at home by about 8am. I’m ravenous by this point so I make myself a big bowl of porridge topped with seeds and fruits.

9am I’m out of the door by 9am, and walk to work. This season I’ve been based at Northcott Mouth, which means my commute to work is a walk along the cliffs. Doesn’t get much better than that. Having said that it’s much more enjoyable when the Cornish sun is shining.

9:30am My first job as I get to the Lifeguard hut is to get changed so that I look the part. Everyone pictures Baywatch, but there’s not as much skin on show as David Hasselhoff. The uniform is pretty bright so that we’re visible. So it’s red shorts and a yellow t-shirt. The hat and yellow wellies are optional though…

10am The beach needs to be set up for 10am, so it’s a pretty busy time for lifeguards getting set up. The flags, rescue boards, safety equipment and appropriate signage needs to be put out, ready for the day.

10:30am By this time you’ll usually find me in the water for a board paddle or swim.

11am The beach usually begins to get busy about this time. So I tend to sit on the water’s edge and keep a watchful eye.

Midday It’s coffee time, or if it’s a good day we’ll have some cake too. That keeps me going until lunch.

2pm Halfway through the day, so it’s time to refuel with lunch. My favourite lunch would be a pasty, or we sometimes treat ourselves to something from Sandymouth Café which is close by.

3pm An afternoon coffee, and more beach patrolling.  The flags are moved depending on the tide and conditions, sometimes it can be as much as hourly.

5:45pm It’s about this time that we’re nearing the end of the working day, so the flags are taken down and other bits are put away and ready for the next day.

6pm It’s home time! So I walk back over the cliffs and make my way back, usually not quite as spritely as the walk there.

Stell Bude Lifeguard 3
Lifeguard 3
Stell Bude Lifeguard 2

Related Adventure, Sport & Lifestyle Activities, Cornwall Beach Guide