This Is What It Feels Like To Save Someone From Drowning

Most days I'm able to clock off from work feeling reasonably satisfied with my endeavours. Perhaps I dropped an amazing pun into an article, cracked an unforgettable one-liner at the water cooler, or managed to play the Careless Whisper 10-hour saxophone loop without any colleagues noticing.

Any of theses examples would represent a successful day at the office and enable me to rest upon my pillow at night with a mind clear of concern. Nothing other than Charizard appearing in my kitchen would be enough to wake me from this contented slumber.

But such a simple existence wouldn't do for some people. There are those whose daily lives are driven by a desire to assist others, rather than spend time catching Pokémon or making satirical observations.

It takes a certain individual to commit their time to such selfless pursuits and lads like me pale into insignificance when compared to heroes like these. From fire servicemen and women, to and doctors and nurses. From RNLI volunteers to those in the armed forces: all of these folk are stand-up members of society who we should aspire towards.

So I wanted to understand just what it's like to be a person such as this; someone versed in everyday heroism and willing to put their own life on the line in order to preserve the existence of someone else.

Given that, in the main, they work day jobs alongside volunteering to be on-call for rescuing others, I decided that someone from the RNLI would be the type of altruistic, mentally bulletproof person who knows what it takes to be a hero. And, after chatting to Josh Legge, who admirably doubles up as a volunteer RNLI crew member and a paid beach lifeguard, this theory became abundantly clear.

For eight years Josh, 27, has been saving lives at sea in this duel capacity down in Lizard, Cornwall. But his association with the RNLI goes back far longer than that, with joining the lifeboat charity something of a family tradition.

"The RNLI has been in my blood for generations and has equipped me with invaluable skills to use both in and outside of work," he tells me.

"It is great in this day and age with an increasingly fragmented community to be part of a charitable organisation that has a strong tradition of bringing volunteers together to assist people in their time of need."

And it is in those times of need where these heroic individuals really come into their own. Building up an expectation for the unexpected is part and parcel of being a rescuer, as Josh explains."The call to the lifeboat can come at any time of day or night and, to be honest, can really scare the life out of you sometimes.

"Going out to sea and hitting the waves is quite an experience, particularly given that Lizard is one of the most exposed points in the UK. You've really got to be ready to strap yourself in."

And that's a bit of an understatement given that, every now and then, these rescue attempts can last a jaw-droppingly long time. For example, Josh and his fellow crew members once spent a massive 14 hours bringing a malfunctioning boat back to safety.


Josh battles through the waves on the way to a rescue.

"I had to go to work the next morning with no sleep," Josh says. "But, if we hadn't been there, this guy wouldn't have been saved. So it makes it all worthwhile."

He's a busy boy is Our Josh. His year-round volunteering is supplemented by lifeguarding in the summer and being a groundworker in the winter, while he also runs a surf school for kids.

But, although the weather may be better during those months spent patrolling the beaches, it doesn't mean that his time as a lifeguard is any less of a challenge than being on the crew.

"[As a lifeguard] you can be sitting there, watching the water and then, suddenly, someone is in serious trouble," he says.

"We just have to run across the beach and deal with the problem. It's the unknown element that can be quite testing for us."

One such example Josh was able to recall ended in tragedy. After being called to attend a woman who had suffered a cardiac arrest, Josh spent almost an hour administering CPR - in accordance with his RNLI training - but ultimately it was too late.


"When someone dies it's incredibly difficult," Josh explains. "It happens so quickly.

"And, if they have a partner with them as well, that can be the hardest part."

This really reinforces the courageousness of these lads and lasses of the RNLI - from those volunteering on lifeboats, to the lifeguards on the beaches. Or both, in the exceptional case of Josh.

The volunteers are regular people who, after dealing with a shocking incident, have to go back to their normal jobs. Yes, they receive extensive first aid training, but they are not doctors or full-time medical professionals who expect such instances as something that comes along with their paid careers.

In Josh's case, he has built up an almost impenetrably thick skin over the years, given how closely he has been linked to incidents in the water. He was just a small child when two close family friends drowned off the Cornish coast, despite both being strong swimmers.

It was this along with his deep family ties to the RNLI that led Josh to join the organisation, which has enabled him to become an invaluable resource to countless rescue attempts.


While his time with the RNLI may have involved instances of tragedy, the uplifting stories far outweigh the heartbreaking ones. And the satisfaction that comes after a successful rescue really fuels the appetite to continue responding to incidents at sea.

"My most memorable rescue was on my first day as a lifeguard, when I rescued a child who was knocked unconscious while out swimming," he recalls.

"There was nothing more rewarding than safely returning the child to shore and providing effective first aid after being seconds away from drowning."

Despite heroic efforts such as this, however, the number of drownings each year remains too high. In 2015, 168 people died in UK coastal waters, and 84 percent of them were men. So we're partnering with the RNLI to stop this.

"I've saved so many people while working for the RNLI and I firmly believe that education is the strongest form of prevention when it comes to saving lives at sea," Josh explains.

"When people come to the coast, there is a need to respect the water.

"Most of the time, when people consider going out of their comfort zone around the water, it's not worth it. The risk far outweighs the benefit. People need to know their limits and not think that they're indestructible.

"So when people head down on holiday they should go to a lifeguarded beach and get some advice from the people on duty. It's important to understand the potential dangers of each beach and where the hazards are.

"If we weren't there as a rescue service, a lot more people would drown."

For more information visit the Respect The Water site HERE.

Sponsored by RNLI

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