A LIFEBOAT operations manager in Gower has warned of the risks of being swept out to sea after a small group of kayakers put rescue services on standby in "horrendous" conditions.
Lawrie Grove, of Horton and Port Eynon inshore lifeboat station, said crews had dealt with more and more kayaker incidents during recent years.
On Saturday afternoon, concerns were raised that three kayakers were in difficulty in winds gusting up to Force 9.
The trio were in the relative shelter of Oxwich Bay between Oxwich Point and the Oxwich Bay Hotel, but the inshore crew assembled at the lifeboat station in readiness to launch. Swansea Coastguard also contacted the RAF helicopter search and rescue crew in North Devon. Fortunately the kayakers made it safely back to shore.
Asked about the conditions at the time, Mr Grove replied: "It was pretty horrendous.
"Off Oxwich Point the surf was huge."
Mr Grove said westerly and south-westerly winds could funnel down the valley at Oxwich and effectively turn into an offshore northerly, driving water craft out into the busy Bristol Channel.
He described the channel, with its extreme tidal range, as like a river flowing in and out, with strengthening currents near headlands such as Port Eynon Point and Oxwich Point.
"We have got a disproportionate number of calls to kayakers in the last four to five years," said Mr Grove. "It's (the same) across the country."
He added: "It is a great sport and a lovely thing to do, and so easily accessible for people."
But he urged newcomers to get advice from a kayaking club, such as the South Wales Kayak Anglers.
He said wearing a life jacket plus carrying flares or a VHF radio — or ideally both — were a must.
Another safety tip was to tell someone when you plan to start paddling, where you're going and what time you expect to return.
Horton and Port Eynon lifeboat station currently has 16 crew members, aged 17 to 50, and raised £620 with a homemade cake sale last Monday.
Mr Grove said South Wales Kayak Anglers were due to hold a big event at Port Eynon on Saturday, July 19.
"They are a really good bunch of people," he said.