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Two RNLI lifeguard supervisors pass out as Coxswain and lifeboat crew at Portrush RNLI

Karl O’Neill

Karl O’Neill

A long-serving lifeguard supervisor on the Causeway Coast has passed out as a Coxswain at Portrush RNLI where he has been a volunteer crew member for 16 years, while another seasonal lifeguard supervisor has joined the Portrush lifeboat crew.


While not patrolling the RNLI’s beaches, Karl O’Neill and Annie Jagoe can often be seen swapping lifeguarding for lifeboating to help save lives at sea.


Lifeguards are known for their proactive approach to ensuring water safety. From the moment they set foot on their assigned beach, their primary focus is accident prevention and water safety. Lifeguards work tirelessly to create a safe environment by implementing preventive measures that reduce the risk of water-related incidents. They diligently scan the surroundings, educate beachgoers, and take preventive measures to reduce the risk of incidents. By constantly monitoring their designated areas, lifeguards create a safe environment, ready to intervene should the need arise. They are trained to respond swiftly and effectively, performing rescues and providing immediate assistance when required.


The lifeboat crew, on the other hand, operate on a reactive basis. When an incident occurs at sea, these highly skilled individuals spring into action. Their role is to respond swiftly and effectively to distress calls and incidents that occur at sea. Their training equips them with the skills to handle potentially life-threatening situations, providing medical aid and performing intricate rescue operations were an incident has already taken place.


Karl O’Neill comes from five generations of RNLI volunteers. At 18, Karl joined the RNLI crew in his hometown of Portrush in 2008 and has been a valued crew member for the last 16 years.


In 2011, with the establishment of the RNLI lifeguard service in Northern Ireland, Karl embraced the opportunity and joined the team. A year later, he took on the role of a senior lifeguard, continuing to build on his skills and managing lifeguard teams on local beaches. Later, in 2018, Karl became the lead Lifeguard Supervisor for the Lifeguards in Northern Ireland, moving into a management role within the service. Since then, he has dedicated his life to both roles, showcasing the seamless integration of his skills and knowledge. As of October 2022, Karl was passed out as a Severn class lifeboat Coxswain.


Karl said:

"The skills obtained whilst lifeguarding, along with the training provided on the lifeboats is what really attributed to my success as a Coxswain. It's that one crew ethos of the RNLI that I really want to push and to celebrate.

"There are lifeguards all over the UK who have the skills and professionalism to be amazing crew members at any lifeboat station. Should any lifeguard be considering joining their local Lifeboat crew, and have the dedication, time and commitment to do so, I would encourage them to go for it because it's a really rewarding profession. And the skills you will be transferring from the lifeguards on the lifeboat crew will be invaluable to the crew. It’s just celebrating that one crew ethos; we are all part of the RNLI - there's no us and them - as we are one."

Annie Jagoe

Annie Jagoe

Annie Jagoe shares a similar love for the industry as Karl. Annie has been a RNLI lifeguard for the past five years. She started lifeguarding in a pool in England.

Annie has a love of the outdoors with past experience in surf instructing. Her passion for being by the coast led her to transition into beach lifeguarding when she returned to Ireland.


Recently, Annie achieved another milestone by becoming a lifeboat crew member. Her interest in sailing and her prior enrolment in a yacht masters online course while in England indicated her inclination toward maritime activities. The opportunity to become part of the lifeboat crew arose when she moved to Portrush.


Despite just starting as lifeboat crew, Annie is excited about the prospects of this new role. She hasn't been on a real-life rescue mission, but her enthusiasm and passion for helping others are evident.


In both lifeguarding and as a volunteer lifeboat crew member, Annie speaks highly of the teamwork she experiences:

"Teamwork is such an important aspect within the RNLI. I love the camaraderie, it’s a very inclusive organisation, and through effective teamwork, we leverage each team members strengths and experiences that create a cohesive unit when dealing with incidents.

"The lifeboat crew have been incredibly welcoming throughout each of my exercises and assessments, and even though I haven’t been on a shout yet, I know they would have my back. Lifeguarding is the same, we all encourage each other to achieve a high standard and work well as a team."


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