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Watch: Public urged to ‘respect the sea’ after pair are rescued in Portrush following capsized kayak incident

By Niamh Campbell

A father and son were dramatically rescued while kayaking in Portrush on Sunday afternoon.

The duo’s kayak capsized, tipping them out, and they were drawn further away from land by the current. 

They were helped back to shore by a skilled surfer who did not want to be named.

Dave Hamill, who used to deliver coasteering sessions and previously helped with lifeguarding rescue for yacht club events on the north coast, said he had also followed the pair as he realised they were relatively amateur and predicted they could be in danger.

He then helped the dad lift the kayak out of the water at a safe spot and stressed that the pair were “very humbled” by the experience and shouldn’t be looked upon negatively, as it’s a simple mistake to make. 

Mr Hamill added that he hopes more people will educate themselves on water safety in the future as a result of the incident.

“I saw these two looking inexperienced, paddling around the headland toward the impact zone of breaking waves, and followed them, recognising there may be an incident,” he said.

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He said this “is not the first time people have gotten into difficulty from lack of water safety awareness”.

“Last year, two inexperienced surfers got caught in the same rip and I had to task the inshore lifeboat for them,” he added.

"I've always been involved with water sports, and I’ve seen some horrendously silly stuff from inexperienced folk.

“There’s also been a boom in people getting into surfing and other water sports during Covid.

"It’s a scary world and it’s the sort of story that needs more attention for sure.

"Surf was pumping [on Sunday] – real enjoyable –  but two other surfers got caught in the same rip [current] later in the afternoon when I was out back, they had to be told to paddle sideways.”

A rip current is a narrow body of water moving out to sea. These currents often pose a risk to swimmers or those engaging in water sports as they can sweep people out to sea quickly without warning.

Mr Hamill explained that Sunday’s kayakers “tired themselves out from paddling against a rip”, and he assumed their plan was to get to the beach for a rest, but noted “it’s mostly rocky shore between where they launched and where they capsized”.

Posting photographs and videos of the situation on Facebook, he wrote: “This could've ended very differently today, those big plastic kayaks are only really suitable for flat water, not wave surfing, and way too solid to want to get a head impact from one flipping over.

“Thankfully the father and kid got back to shore safely with some help (the dad assures me he's going to check out a water safety course with Freedive NI.”

He added for the public to “respect the ocean!”

Based in Portrush, Freedive NI provides four-week online water safety courses, surf survival tutorials, tours and introductions to diving, all taught by professional instructors. 

Last summer, the RNLI also warned of potential swimming dangers after six people died entering water on the island of Ireland within the same week, including a teenager in Co Down and an adult in Fermanagh.

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