Tintagel Surf Life Saving Club

We are a small club in North Cornwall with our members coming from the area of Tintagel, Delabole, Camelford, Boscastle and St Teath. The club is a registered charity and run by a band of dedicated volunteers, led by our club chairman, Les Freke, who has been involved in surf life saving since the early seventies, being a Beach lifeguard, Instructor, and Examiner within the Cornish region.

Tintagel SLSC was formed in 1964 by a group of locals concerned about the number of drownings at Trebarwith Strand. The founder members included Fred Whiting who became the club President & Roy Crosley who served as Secretary for a number of years; it was their dedication that saw the club grow into the organisation it is today.

The first ‘clubhouse’ consisted of a garden shed where the toilet block now stands, this then grew to 2 sheds as rescue equipment was purchased.

In the early years there were no paid lifeguards so club members patrolled the beach at weekends. Rescue boards were unknown in those days so any rescues were carried out using a rescue tube or by a team using a reel, line & belt, both relied on a strong swimmer particularly in the latter method as the beltman had to swim a line out to the casualty.

The club affiliated to the Surf Life Saving Association of G.B. & early training was provided by Peter Cloke, a member of Bude club, who later became the beach safety officer for North Cornwall. Bude was one of the first of 3 clubs to be formed in this country.

With more people enjoying leisure activities at Trebarwith, the then Camelford Rural Council was persuaded to provide a full time lifeguard from June to September. The first one, Harry Lines, was a Canadian P.E. teacher who came over each summer to combine holidays with work & he was helped by volunteer club members.

Following several drownings on other beaches along the coast the local authority, North Cornwall District Council, decided to create a professional lifeguard service for many of the popular beaches from Harlyn in the south to Bude in the north. The majority of the lifeguards were drawn from the surf life saving clubs at Harlyn, Polzeath, Tintagel, Crackington & Bude because local knowledge of the beaches was vital to successful lifeguarding.

Harry Lines & Richard Whiting were the first club members to be presented with the Royal Humane Society’s Award for Valour following the dramatic rescue of 2 German tourists who had been swept round Dennis Point in big surf. Years later another 2 club members, John Dugard & Chris Boundy, were the first lifeguards to receive a Silver Medal from the RNLI after rescuing a fisherman who had fallen into the sea at high tide. John is still guarding & is the beach senior guard at Trebarwith whilst Chris left for Australia though he still returns each summer to help run the surf school.

Rescue equipment has changed over the years, the reel line & belt is no longer used & the rescue board has become the favoured choice for rescue. On some of the bigger beaches that have easy access, inshore rescue boats & jet skis are also used but at Trebarwith because of the tidal nature of the beach & the difficulty of launching craft the lifeguards rely on boards & tubes.

When the local council decided to build a toilet block at Trebarwith in the early 70’s Fred Whiting persuaded them to include a small first aid room & store with a large single room above. Compared to what existed before this was luxury, however the club outgrew this space & in 2007 following 6 years of fund raising & planning the building was extended to include separate changing & shower rooms, a lifeguard & first aid station & an equipment store converted from an old toilet block.

The club is still growing its membership & again finds itself in need of more storage space but at present has no room to expand its facilities. However it still continues to train quality lifeguards & to give its younger members a grounding in skills that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.