RNLI, Sea Lifesavers | Adventure-gram
The social side of saving lives at sea
Main photograph by Nigel Millard
The RNLI is all about saving lives at sea. It’s an entirely volunteer-led charity, founded way back in 1824. Today, they have over 350 lifeboats around the UK, covering 19,000 miles of coastline, while lifeguards patrol the beaches in summer. They even have a flood response team for river emergencies.
All of which is great but why should you join the 51.3k people who follow the RNLI on Instagram? Partly for a humbling reminder, amid the sunsets and city break snaps in your feed, of how scary and powerful the sea is. But also so you don’t forget how seriously hardcore and badass the RNLI volunteers are, to tune into those who go out searching and rescuing in the stormiest of sea conditions when most of us are tucked up in bed. In a more primal sense, it's also really cool to see tiny orange boats battling against the kind of super-gnarly waves you only see in retro oil paintings.
One of their number happens to be Finisterre founder Tom Kay, who has been volunteering as long as he’s been running the environmentally-conscious Cornish surf brand. That is 15 years.
“When I started Finisterre one of the first things I did was join the RNLI crew here," he says. “It was something I always wanted to do, something I physically could do and in that sense it felt like something I ought to be part of as well."
Kay volunteers at the St. Agnes station and likes the perspective it affords him. “I always come out of the sea feeling better than when I went in. The sea is one of the few places you can go that is stimulating all of your sense at the same time. You do get a certain energy and feeling from it. There have been times when I’ve been out at sea and looked around and felt like I had no right to be there."
"There have been times when I’ve been out at sea and looked around and felt like I had no right to be there."
He also likes the timelessness of the RNLI's role. "Ultimately the volunteers now are doing the same thing as the volunteers were doing 100 years ago."
“It’s a big moment for us," says Kay. “Stories come out of that rich heritage, hardship, survival and ordinary people doing some extraordinary things. There’s a certain law of the sea that if someone is in trouble you drop everything and go and help them."