The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has released a new safety advice video for anyone considering taking a dip in the sea this winter.
With indoor pools closed for much of the year due to Covid-19, there has been an explosion of interest and participation in outdoor swimming and dipping with many people trying it for the very first time.
But, while most open water swimmers enjoy themselves completely safely, the RNLI is stressing the importance of being aware of the potential dangers of taking a dip in the sea at this time of year.
There have been several recent incidents around the UK and Ireland and earlier this month a 61-year-old man drowned after getting into trouble while swimming in the sea in Dorset.
The short YouTube video is presented by two members of the RNLI’s water safety team, Nick Ayers and Liam Fayle-Parr – both experienced open water swimmers themselves.
It is aimed primarily at people who are new to the sport or who want to bob around in the sea for a while, rather than more experienced open water swimmers – although the advice applies to anyone entering cold water this winter.
RNLI Head of Water Safety Gareth Morrison said: “There are well-documented physical and mental health benefits of swimming in the sea, but it can also be very dangerous if you are unaware or under-prepared. The purpose of this video is to help you enjoy it safely.
“We hope that people will share the video and the safety advice in it with their family, friends and swimming groups.
“Our volunteer lifeboat crews have dealt with a relatively high number of incidents since the end of the summer involving swimmers and dippers, so we are asking everyone to be aware of what they can do to keep themselves and others safe, and to respect the water.
“There are a number of things to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time in the water such as not swimming alone, staying in your depth and knowing how to warm up properly afterwards, which sounds obvious but is crucial to avoid any delayed effects of the cold.
“We would also always recommend checking with your doctor before trying it for the first time, especially if you have underlying health issues.
“If in any doubt, stay out of the water. If you or anyone else does get into trouble in or on the water please call 999 or 112 immediately and ask for the Coastguard.”
The RNLI’s key safety advice for taking a winter dip is:
Never swim alone – always go with someone else to a familiar spot
Always check the weather forecast, including tide information and wave height
If in doubt, stay out – there is always another day to go for a swim
Take plenty of warm clothes for before and after your dip, along with a hot drink to help you warm up again when you come out of the water
Wearing a wetsuit will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering cold water shock
Be seen – wear a brightly coloured swim cap and consider using a tow float
Acclimatise to the water temperature slowly – never jump straight in
Stay in your depth and know your limits
If you get into trouble remember FLOAT to live by leaning back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing
Take a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch
If you or someone else is in trouble call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard
*To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, go to: RNLI.org/Xmas