The Heroes of the Surf was held at Sandy Park on the 3rd February. An evening to celebrate and recognise those, nominated by their peers, who’s tireless efforts to train, educate and qualify beach lifeguards and those who made heroic rescues.
There were 14 awards with winners from 13 clubs with 23 members also receiving commendations for service to lifesaving. For the panels below you can read about each of the winners and why they were presented with the award.
Hero Of The Surf
Emily Greenwood – Holywell Bay SLSC
During a walk on Holywell Bay beach with her son Isaac, Emily heard shouts from the water. She saw a boy on a bodyboard in difficulties in a strong rip. A man, the boys father, was stripping down and entered the water to attempt to assist. Emily left Isaac in his wheelchair in a safe location on the beach and ran over to the mother who was shouting.
Emily tried to communicate to the man and boy to swim sideways across the rip but they were not able to hear. Emily stripped to her underwear and waded out attempting to instruct and reassure the pair. This was unsuccessful so she started to swim out through 2-4ft surf in January. When she reached the pair she instructed them to keep calm and hold onto the body board and kick parallel to the shore to safety and to exit the rip. She grasped both of the casualties whilst providing constant reassurance. The boy was in a wetsuit and responsive however the man was succumbing to the cold. Waves were breaking over them as they made their way back in through the break and into the off-shore wind.
It is estimated that Emily was in the water for over 15 minutes.
When they were able to stand the boy ran to his mother leaving Emily holding the man up on her hip. At this point another beach walker assisted Emily in getting the man out of the water and up the beach a short distance from the incoming tide. They sat the casualty on the bodyboard for insulation.
Emily ran the 150m back to Isaac’s wheelchair and on her return with Isaac used his electric heated blanket to help keep the casualty warm. Both Emily and the other walker wrapped blankets and other clothing around the casualty as well as providing body heat as a wind break.
When assistance arrived from the coastguard and Surf lifesaving club Emily was encouraged to head up to the hut to warm up and be checked over by the paramedics.
Without Emily’s decisive intervention at least one life would have been lost.
“Volunteering is an intrinsic part of Holywell Bay Surf Life Saving Club, a cohesive and inclusive community where my family and I have been members for twelve years. We have all gained lifelong life saving skills, seen positive role models across generations and generally had our lives enriched by being members here. To be nominated and then actually receive this award from SLS peers is very special indeed and a great honour. Thank you.
The courage and confidence I found on that cold January day was only present due to supportive and positive ethos of HBSLSC.
My most memorable moment must be at the club hut, shortly after the man I had rescued was airlifted to hospital and the boy checked over by paramedics. A club member/friend said to me, “The last time a boy was caught in a rip here and the man swam to save him, they both drowned.” Hearing this, I felt my actions really made a difference to this family. And to hear other club members say they were proud of me, will be something that will stay with me always.”
Exceptional Lifeguard Skills
THOMAS MCRITCHIE – Perranporth SLSC
Tom has worked tirelessly over the last few years to encourage club members to Patrol. Returning from New Zealand Tom brought back a lot of ideas about Voluntary Patrolling. Moving on from the position of Training Officer and in 2021 took on the role of Volunteer Patrol Coordinator (one of the roles he brought back from NZ).
He arranged club patrols to start after the paid Lifeguard service finished at 6o’clock. Perranporth beach is one of the busiest beaches in the country and one of the most dangerous if you are unaware of its tides and rips.
In 2023 he took on the role as Reginal IRB Officer so he can offer more training and organises Safety Cover. He also joined the SLS Cornwall Flood Rescue Team
JOSH WARD – St. Agnes SLSC
Josh used expert skills and beach knowledge, combining all his water and lifesaving skills to save two fellow surfers, when in large surf conditions and incoming spring tides, were completely overwhelmed and washed around the corner and against the cliffs at Chapel Porth, one had lost their surfboard and was screaming for help, her friend was near her. Josh retrieved the female surfer first and then went back for the second surfer, the two casualties were in a dire situation and Josh realised this and acted quickly.
ALFIE TURNER – Bude SLSC
Alfie was in the water surfing when a family of four two adults and two teenagers were swept out to sea off Sandy mouth.
Alfie recognised they were in trouble and supported the family with his board and calmness.
His quick actions ensured all the family were saved and the RNLI beach lifeguards were able to rescue all. At the time I think he was 12 years old.
The rescue made the papers and was covered in detail on the Cornwall Live Website.
The RNLI guards on the beach reported it as lives saved.
Services to Lifesaving
EMMA KANE – Branksome SLSC
Emma is completely devoted to Lifesaving and Lifesaving Sport. She has been a training member of Branksome Chine but generally takes nothing from the club and gives so much.
She has been our membership secretary for 8+ years and is actually one of the reasons that Nationals at Branksome Chine looks as it does. During that week she is the unsung hero that makes sure everyone is fed and watered.
MARK WARD – Bude SLSC
Mark Ward has been active as a member of Bude SLSC for many years & in many capacities. He was originally the Nippers’ chairperson and has gone on to be regular member of the full club committee for well over a decade.
He is a Trainer-Assessor and has been the chief instructor at the club for many years, putting a great number of people through their lifeguard awards as well as re-assessing people every year. He coaches frequently throughout the year and has exhaustively written a great number of operating protocols to make sure that training activities within the club follow safe procedure.
In addition to his many hours volunteering as an excellent coach, regular patrol member, committee member and TA, he is an active competitor achieving many successes at National championships. Mark is an exemplary member of the SLS community.
NICK AYERS – Waveney SLSC
My daughter attends training every week with Nick and he has supported and encouraged her through the sport, giving advice on how to complete certain training and encouraging her when she felt unsure. He attended the nationals with her and was at every race to support her.
He also took her into the water after a gruelling swim in very choppy waters when she lost her confidence and came out not wanting to do the next race. Consequently, after some tips and support she was raring to go again.
Nick is always on hand to support all of the children in the club but as coaches go, I am yet to find one in any other sport that my children compete in that even remotely compares to him and that’s why I think he deserves this award.
Sports Person in Lifesaving
ANDREA PENNELL – Llantwit Major SLSC, SLS Wales & SLSGB
For services to sport, Andrea gives up a huge amount of time for Nationals, Committee work and her international lifesaving work. She inspires and nurtures those starting on sports officiating, demonstrates excellent event management skills and always ensures the safety of all. She goes above and beyond to ensure all events run as successfully as possible.
As for nominating Andrea, I can think of no one more deserving of this. She was absolutely superb in Belgium and held the whole Masters and Interclub events together, indeed at very short notice she was asked to manage the Interclub events because the designated referee could not attend.
Her management and control of the events in extremely testing conditions was exemplary and there was only praise from all the participants, including the organisers and fellow referees. Her decisions at times when safety issues were critical were just brilliant and I’ll never forget the moment when she stopped a race in progress because safety had been compromised by the weather, something I don’t think I have ever seen before, but definitely the right thing to do. All events were held, nothing was cancelled.
Andrea has gained a significant reputation in Europe and will be in attendance at this year’s World Championships in a significant role which demonstrates the confidence of the ILS Event Management Committee to take on this prominent role.
ELLIE MCCLOY – Rest Bay SLSC
Ellie is a GB team member and has had an outstanding year in her own right. What is less well known is the amount of time she gives to upcoming athletes in Wales, passing on knowledge and skills she has gained. She runs the ‘Tuesday night boards’ session open to all clubs and attracting 30 athletes on average. She is a coach at the fast-developing Cardiff Bay Kayak club which is rapidly developing top young ski paddlers. She also mentors and trains with individual athletes who have approached her with training plans and technical sessions. She provided coached sessions for the Welsh team. Last but not least she works with her own club Rest Bay, to take sessions and develop technique with junior athletes. All of this whilst managing her own training and a busy degree as fourth year medical student.
STEVE INSTANCE – St Agnes
Steve is well known in the lifesaving community and has made an exceptional contribution to sport and lifesaving over many years, both professionally and in a variety of volunteer roles. However, I feel his contribution at the St Agnes club over the last couple of years is worthy of particular recognition.
- held the role of lead coach for 4 nipper groups, delivering 4 hours of coaching every week to over 120 children, adapting delivery through the challenges of the pandemic. Steve’s able to translate his depth of knowledge and experience into sessions that our nippers (and other coaches) consistently find safe, fun, challenging and rewarding.
- helped develop and support new nipper groups and coaches within the club.
- trained over 50 lifeguards as our lead TA (our club now has 100!)
- volunteered for multiple shifts every time we run patrols, and every time, I get feedback from our less experienced guards that working alongside Steve was inspirational.
- served as a valued member of our committee, brings amazing ideas to our meetings.
- always steps up to help at events, for example, organising our annual “Dog Racing” day
- constantly encourages all ages in our group to get involved in surf lifesaving competition with great success in our nipper groups and a valiant effort to counter the long standing legend that “St Agnes Seniors don’t do competitions”
- organising the first twilight event at St Agnes in over 30 years and taking a team to a couple of other events in the series.
- He “sweeps” on the surf boat twice a week.
- stepped in to help establish a new surf lifesaving club.
SUE BUTLER – Newquay SLSC
Sue has supported life saving for many years. She coaches our nippers, she officiates at the competitions and generally goes over and above to support the club but the sport more widely. She is so passionate about surf life saving and an inspiration to so many.
BARRIE CHARLESWORTH – Saunton Sands SLSC
Barrie started his Surf Lifesaving journey with the Devon & Cornwall Police Team (North Devon) in 1961. As usual he started as a simple member of the club, trained and soon began patrolling the beaches of Woolacombe and Croyde.
In 1962 Barry was a founding member of North Devon SLSC, eventually taking on the role of Club Captain.
At a 1965 SLSA meeting in Truro, Barrie put forward the proposal that women should be allowed to take part in SLS training and competitions in the Sea.
Well to say it didn’t go down too well would be about right with several members suggesting he should be thrown out of life saving!!
However he managed to gain the support of Fred Lester and Richard Trewella, and after a year or two it was reluctantly adopted by the Association. Barry was a real pioneer of the time, seeing a better future for SLSA and I thank him that he did this.
Barrie remained a solid volunteer for his club for many years, taking on different roles, championing lifesaving, undertaking awards and eventually becoming an instructor and then Examiner for Lifeguarding and IRBs. He also took on the role of his clubs representative to Surf Life Saving Devon. So true to his life saving spirit, Barrie took on a solid volunteer role as Regional Secretary from 2003 until 2018 when the region changed into a CIO, and yes you guessed it he also saw the region through the whole change.
Barrie championed SLSGB Flood Rescue in Devon, taking on much of the workload initially and getting the volunteers, funding and training organised with SLSGB. There were many times when this initiative could have failed but he was determined the region could make a success of it.
Barrie’s interests in IRBs has evolved from him training to rescue, training others to qualify (both at a club and regional level) to volunteering to be part of the SLSGB IRB safety crew at many events. He is very proud to have been a member of the team which won several IRB events at the European Championships.
As Regional Lifesaving Officer, Barrie became a valued and active member of the SLSGB Life Saving Commission and during that time was involved with proof reading the current first aid manual and helping to format the additional parts required – mainly related to drowning, Barrie even featured in the manual!
Barrie also became a regular Tutor at the SLSGB National Updates, ensuring we were current with our First aid, resuscitation/defib standards for four years. Barrie remained a solid volunteer on the former Life Saving Commission for many years.
I know he has previously been awarded ‘Services to Lifesaving’ and has been presented with a Long Service Award having achieved 50+ years. I strongly feel it would be a very positive moment to recognise Life Member for his overall contribution to SLSGB. In 2016 he was awarded with the British Empire Medal for Saving Lives in North Devon.
I know it would be the icing on the cake for him to be formally recognised with Life Membership for the contributions he has made to SLSGB over his very very many years of service. showcasing the value of what we do and just how SLS can make a difference to all our lives.
PAUL BENNEY – Crantock SLSC
2023 marked 50 years of Paul’s services to Lifesaving. During those 50 years Paul has undertaken an uncountable number of rescues, coached hundreds of members from Nippers to Seniors and Masters at every level and in every aspect of surf lifesaving from awards, to patrolling, to sport and competed at local, national and international competitions.
In 1986 he (along with his friend John Bampfield) founded Crantock SLSC, a small village club created to educate the local surfing community and give them the skills to keep themselves safe in the water and to save the lives of others on the beach. The club now has over 150 members who regularly take part in a wide range of lifesaving activities, patrolling the ever-more challenging Crantock Beach, awards training, sport training and competition at every level from local and regional to national, European & Worlds.
Paul’s dedication to surf lifesaving has seen no boundaries and he is still instrumental in the running and development of Crantock SLSC. At the age of 70, Paul still holds his Beach Lifeguard Award, continues to coach the beginner/improver adults every Wednesday throughout the summer and continues to support with the training of new members in the skills of surveillance, patrolling and understanding the beach environment.
What Paul doesn’t know about lifesaving in Crantock, probably isn’t worth knowing!
Paul’s extensive local knowledge of the currents, conditions and lifesaving skills specific to Crantock have been instrumental in educating not only the growing and ever changing membership base but also visitors, local community and members of the public using what is now one of the most challenging beaches in the UK.
Paul’s legacy goes further than the activities of the club and it’s members. Paul also built the clubhouse and store areas that are used by members each week and also house the RNLI during their summer period. Furthermore, Paul continues to help with the club’s maintenance, mending not only the clubhouse and installing seas defences against the large storm swells often experienced but also repairing boards and the club trailer.
Crantock SLSC members both past and present, along with the community of Crantock would like to show our appreciation for all that Paul has given to surf lifesaving. His dedication has saved numerous lives both directly and indirectly through the members he has trained and inspired and through those that he continues to train and inspire, a legacy worthy of National recognition.
Club of the Year
North Norfolk SLSC
This year we have introduced a new award after recognising the brilliant work all our clubs do, the Club Of The Year is now in place to recognise the above and beyond.
Over the last few years, North Norfolk SLSC have stood out as one of the leading fundraising clubs, supporting their demographic and making the club an extremely inclusive place to be.
The red and white team have also assisted and supported neighbouring clubs get off the ground. In 2019 the club ran Mundo Sessions for the beach Mundesley down the road which is now, after much dedication from themselves, a well established surf life saving club hosting 88 members.
With NN sitting currently at 122 members, a core group behind the leadership of their president, Mike Snelling decided to not only help locally, but globally!
A small team of lifeguards from the club took to the shores of Costa Rica to assist in their biggest event of the year, Holy Week. Thousands apon thousands of Costa-Ricans head to the coast for the week of celebrations. In that week usually is a drowning a day – Not when NNSLSC arrived. They assisted locals and left the shores with zero drownings in that week – thudding their hero-ess stamp on the Central American coast. To note – the team first raised £10,000 on Norfolk shores, the money raised helped go towards lifesaving equipment for the country.
Back in the UK and on the East, the club continue to assist eastern region clubs, through competition and education. The club are currently building relationships from Broadstairs in the south to Aberdeen in the north, north – setting up monthly digital chats and workshops.
Their passion and commitment for lifesaving sport is sky high, always attending our national competitions that can predominantly be towards the southwest.
More recently, we’ve highlighted ideas from North Norfolk fundraising team on our podcast, Splash Pod plus stories we have briefly covered here tonight. It is defiantly worth a listen!
Commendation for Contribution to Lifesaving
Anya Hocking Gylly Ben Hartland Eastbourne Daisy Hoskings Perranporth Isobel Gwenter Aberavon Jo Hartlands Eastbourne Joel Henthorn St Agnes Jonathon Longman Hollywell Kiran Gammon Woolacombe Michael (Ben) Byrom Croyde Rhys Ellis-Davies Hollywell Robert Whittaker Woolacombe Simon Lawrence Perranporth Ellie Dickerson Weedy Blyth Issy Dickerson Weedy Blyth Jacob Screeton Blyth Richard Sykes Newquay Russ O’Connor Newquay Ashley Mann Newquay Paul Price Newquay Jess Hilberry Newquay Kass Gibson Newquay Elodie Sykes Newquay Peter Makepeace Croyde Tom Bolt Portreath