A teenager who nearly lost his life swimming in Beadnell Bay is fronting an RNLI water safety campaign.
Evan Chrisp is now urging others to follow the same advice he took on board when watching a cinema ad: To stay calm and float.
His life-changing moment came last summer, when he and his friends went to Beadnell Bay to celebrate finishing their exams.
The 17-year-old, from Newcastle, recalled: “The sea was choppy but we jumped over the waves at waist height. Two waves came over and we were washed back so that we couldn’t touch the floor. We were well out of our depth. It happened so quickly.”
Evan and two of his friends found themselves caught in a rip current that dragged them away from the shore. The other two made it back to safety but Evan was pulled so far out, he lost sight of the beach.
He said: “I remembered seeing one of the RNLI’s videos at the cinema. I lay on my back and allowed myself to get my breath back, as I needed to conserve my energy and not fight the water.
“I managed to swim sideways to the current and slowly made my way to a moored yacht. But I’d been in the water for over 45 minutes and my whole body had cramped up so I was just clinging on.”
Watching from the shore, and realising Evan couldn’t get out, his dad Simon made an emergency call to the Coastguard. An exhausted and hypothermic Evan was finally rescued by Seahouses lifeboat crew after 50 minutes in the water.
As part of his work with the RNLI, Evan has now been photographed by Newcastle photographer Jack Lowe, whose work also highlights the importance of the life-saving charity.
Jack created Evan’s portrait on the very beach where he nearly lost his life – using Victorian photographic techniques that produce haunting images on glass.
Talking about the experience, Evan said: “It was fascinating to work with Jack. His photographs are fantastic and a great and unique way to celebrate the RNLI and their incredible work.
“It has been brilliant to work with the RNLI and help to support and promote Respect The Water and Float To Live. The message is so important – it is truly a life saving campaign.”
Jack said: “It was a little surreal making Evan’s portrait. I’m used to photographing the lifeboat volunteers who save people.
“To photograph somebody who had actually been saved was very moving, an emotive aspect that’s clearly conveyed on the final glass plate.
“Evan’s an excellent person to spread the word too, so calm and measured — qualities in his character that clearly helped him survive to tell the tale. And I found it rather ironic that he learned the advice that saved him during a cinema outing to see Baywatch!”
The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign is now in its fifth year and the charity is urging anyone who finds themselves in trouble in cold water to follow the FLOAT advice and stay calm and float on your back for a short time to regain control of your breathing.
The charity says that seven people claimed floating helped save their life in 2017, after they advocated this as a key survival skill last summer.
Over the past five years, 98 people have died at the UK coast in August, making it one of the deadliest months for coastal fatalities.