In the depths of South Devon lies the South Hams. A beautiful coastal region, known for its stunningly rugged coastline and its rolling hills. The area has a long history of lifesaving, stemming from Bantham Surf Lifesaving Club, which was ‘formed by Mr Maitland Tribe, the local expert on beach safety, in 1960.’ This was the setting for an epic challenge of endurance, done on a whim by a local lifeguard this summer.
The RNLI operates seasonal lifeguard cover at seven stations in the area. From Challaborough in the West, through Bigbury North, Sedgewell Cove, Bantham, Hope Cove and Slapton, all the way to Blackpool Sands in the East. The stretch of coast also houses the RNLI Lifeboat Station at Salcombe and the Independent Lifeboat Station at Hope Cove. A total of 9 stations that provide Lifesaving cover to the dramatic stretch of coast.
The South Hams also happens to be the home of Red International, with our global HQ just 15 minutes up the road from Bantham beach (pictured above. credit: Luke Lane-Prokopiou ). This Lifesaving Club is where Lewis Durant, our lead rescue designer cut his teeth as a lifeguard and is where his younger brother, Harry, now follows in his footsteps: patrolling the South Hams beaches during summers between years at University in Cardiff.
Credit: Luke Lane-Prokopiou
Unlike 2022, when Harry had a busy summer of rescues. Mid-way through the 2023 season, the unseasonably poor weather had brought smaller crowds and fewer incidents.
Like many lifeguards, Harry is driven to test himself. Working on the beach all day is in itself a wonderful way to spend the summer, but he wanted to find a way to push his limits as well. So, at 16:00 on Thursday 10th August, he decided that the following morning he would attempt a new Lifeguard challenge in the area.
“The idea had always been at the back of my mind and from the start of the season I decided that this would be the year I would take on the challenge. The route is the total length of our patrolled area and due to the prevailing wind at start bay, going anti-clockwise from west to east is the ideal direction to paddle.”
As far as we are aware, this had not yet been attempted: Harry’s plan was to prone paddle, swim and run, from the Western most South Hams Lifeguard Station (Challaborough), to the Eastern most (Blackpool Sands). At this point, not quite sure of the route or distance, Harry enlisted the help of the Red Rescue team and his partner (and fellow RNLI Lifeguard), Chloe. With an idea that he would paddle the first leg, before running, swimming and paddling again, he needed some logistical help and the super-transportable 10.4 Prone Sprint from Red Rescue was the obvious choice of craft.
The plan materialised that evening and the following morning, Harry set off with the tide at 9:42am from Challaborough. Over the next hour, he prone paddled out to Bigbury, past Sedgewell Cove and Bantham, before stretching out around Thurlestone Bay to Hope Cove. Ticking off the first 5, most densely located stations in 1 hr 3 minutes, covering 5.78km/3.59m.