A surfer who was saved by Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers after being washed around a headland into huge breaking waves will soon be on TV screens as he recalls the death-defying rescue.

Jack Lyons’ dramatic rescue was captured on camera and – along with members of the volunteer lifeboat crew who saved him – he recounts the terrifying moment he was pulled from the sea in the new series of Saving Lives at Sea.

Jack, 18, a keen surfer from the US, was in the UK studying when he decided to take advantage of the huge swells which had been stirred up by Storm Brenden in January last year. However, unbeknown to Jack, a rip current was soon to take him out of sight and around a rocky headland into huge breaking waves.

With reports coming in from bystanders of a surfer in trouble, Porthcawl RNLI, based on the south coast of Wales, launched their lifeboat.

Arriving at the headland, Porthcawl RNLI Helm Chris Missen said: ‘As we arrived, I can clearly remember the roar of the waves breaking against the shoreline and thinking – that’s a big swell.’

Jack had managed to climb onto a rocky outcrop, however, he was still in grave danger as the waves continued to roll in.

Chris added: ‘Once the surfer saw our lifeboat, he re-entered the water and started to paddle out through the surf. The conditions were fairly challenging with 2 metre breaking waves. I managed to position the lifeboat as close as possible to the surfer so my crew had the best possible chance of saving his life.

‘As my crew put their arms out to reach him, breaking seas kept passing through the lifeboat, but they weren’t going to give up hope and lose him.

‘Thankfully, albeit a struggle, the team managed to pull him onboard.’

Jack said: ‘I’m an experienced surfer, but things changed very quickly. I suddenly realised how much danger I was actually in. I just couldn’t fight the current and could feel myself being pulled under.

‘Seeing the lifeboat coming towards me is a sight I’ll never forget. I am eternally grateful to the crew of Porthcawl RNLI.’

The dramatic rescue by Porthcawl RNLI opens the new series of popular BBC Two documentary, Saving Lives at Sea, which airs on Tuesday, August 24 at 8pm.

Real life rescue footage captured on their helmet cameras gives a frontline view of how the charity’s lifesavers risk their own lives as they go to the aid of those in danger at sea and strive to save every one. Footage is accompanied by emotive interviews from the volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards, alongside the people they rescue and their families.

Now in its sixth series, the 10-part documentary showcases the lifesaving work of the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards from around the UK and Ireland. The series will air on BBC Two on Tuesdays at 8pm, as well as being available on BBC iPlayer following broadcast.

Alongside the dramatic surfer rescue in episode one, the volunteers at Anstruther RNLI, Scotland, face a tricky evacuation after a man had fallen and injured his ankle, while on the south coast, Selsey RNLI launch to a group of people cut off by the incoming tide. Portishead RNLI round up the rescues for the first high drama episode as they search for an open water swimmer – and with the possibility of hypothermia setting in, time is of the essence to find her.

Series six of Saving Lives at Sea, which is produced by Blast! Films, begins on 24 August at 8pm on BBC Two, and will continue throughout September and October.

To support the RNLI in its lifesaving work, please visit: GoDonate/RNLI

Notes to Editors

  • The series is made for the BBC by Blast! Films.
  • Interviews available with Porthcawl RNLI volunteer Chris Missen

Media contacts

For more information please contact Dave Riley, RNLI National Media Officer – David_Riley@rnli.org.uk. Alternatively, call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email pressoffice@rnli.org.uk