Retired police officer says simple trick saved him from drowning in riptide on Cornwall beach

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A retired police officer is crediting a simple technique for saving his life when he was almost swept out to sea in a riptide near Newquay.

Jon was on holiday in Mawgan Porth and says if it was not for the RNLI's 'float to live' method, he might not have survived.

The Yorkshireman says the riptide felt like being "in a washing machine" and he was trying not panic as he was "struggling to breathe".

"I would have become rapidly exhausted," he said. "Panic would have probably set in.

"I would have run out of oxygen. And with all the swallowing of water, I would have become disorientated and I would have I wouldn't have been here."

The RNLI says 57 lives were saved in the South West last summer because lifeguards managed to reach people struggling in time.

As 11 million people visited the beaches in the region last summer, the charity wants people to stay vigilant around the water as the weather gets warmer.

What is the 'float to live' technique and how do you do it?

The float to live technique encourages people to conserve their energy as they wait for help.

A demonstration from RNLI on the Float to Live technique in Falmouth Credit: ITV News

You should lean back and use your arms and legs to stay afloat, control your breathing and then call for help or swim to safety.

In a coastal emergency, call 999 or 112 for the Coastguard.

Lifeguard Tarryn Brown said keeping calm and controlling your breath is key to survival.

"Your breathing rate is going to escalate," he said. "And with that, when you go trying to breathe, you're not really filling your lungs with air and with that, then you panic and need more oxygen and then you start splashing around and that's when you get yourself into trouble."

Dave and Brian say knowing the Float to Live technique gave them chance to be rescued by the RNLI Credit: RNLI

The method has saved the lives of many people in the South West, including Dave Henderson, 52, from Ilminster and Brian Harding, 73, from Chard.

The pair were on a fishing trip on the River Axe, near Axmouth, when a freak wave caused their boat to capsize.

Both men were flung into the water just as it was getting dark.

Dave, who has a heart condition, could feel the current from the river taking him out to sea and he knew he could not swim long enough or hard enough to make it back to shore.

"I feel exceedingly lucky to be alive," he said.

"There were so many things that were important to our rescue, from the onlooker on the beach, who knew what to do and called 999 and asked for Coastguard, to the speed the RNLI were able to launch.

"I’m also very grateful I saw that RNLI poster so many times that I instinctively knew to float to live."

Brian had even more difficulty in the water with his leg was in a plaster cast.

"I was in the water for a long time," he said.

"I could feel the current from the river was taking me right out, it must have been about half a mile out.

"I tried to swim and fight the current, but it wasn’t possible. I had no option other than to start floating on my back.

"The water was freezing and it was really dark by this point. Using float to live gave me that vital time to catch my breath while we waited for help to arrive.

"I’m so grateful to the RNLI who arrived on the scene and rescued us. I wouldn’t be here today without them."

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