The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging anyone taking part in open water swims and dips to be aware of the risks after revealing 5 people are alive today after being rescued in swimming-related incidents last winter.

Cold water shock is a very real danger for anyone entering water that is 15c or below while swim failure and hypothermia can also pose a risk, especially at this time of year when the average sea temperature around the UK and Ireland is just 6 to 10c.

Last winter, the RNLI saved the lives of five swimmers and helped a further 12 back to safety.

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One of those saved was a sea swimmer who was struggling to get back ashore as the tide had turned. The alarm was raised by other swimmers and as the lifeboat from Portishead arrived the swimmer was struggling to stay afloat, drifting in and out of consciousness and extremely cold.

Volunteers from Hayling Island saved 2 swimmers who were spotted clinging to a buoy, while off the Sunderland coast, a group of swimmers called 999 after losing sight of one of their friends who was then saved by the RNLI. In Sligo Bay, Ireland, four swimmers found themselves in trouble in large swells. 1 person was recovered by the RNLI, 1 made it ashore independently and 2 others were airlifted to safety by the Coastguard helicopter.

Roslyn Cameron, from the RNLI Water Safety Team says:

“Here in the south east, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of people taking up dipping and open water swimming, and it’s amazing so many people are feeling the benefits of a new activity. However for many, this is their first experience of the sea in the colder winter months, so we’re asking everyone to be aware of risks before they enter the water, know how to keep themselves and others safe, and to Respect the Water.

“With the sea temperatures still dropping and reaching their coldest around March, the effects of cold water, combined with weather conditions and any personal health issues should be taken seriously before venturing in. We want everyone to enjoy themselves safely so if it’s your first time in open water, it’s worth speaking to your GP first, particularly for those with cardiac or underlying health conditions.

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“There are a number of precautions you can take to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time. Avoid swimming alone; consider going with others or joining a group so you can look out for each other. Be aware of the depth of the water as well as the tides, and if you can, stay in your depth and swim parallel to the shore.

“Also, taking the right kit is essential. A wetsuit or swim vest can be very helpful to keep you warm and increase your buoyancy and hats, neoprene gloves and boots can make a real difference. A bright swim cap and tow float will make you much more visible to others and are especially useful if you get into trouble”.

RNLI safety tips for taking a winter swim or dip:

  • Be prepared – Check the weather forecast, including tide information and wave height. Take plenty of warm clothes for before and after your dip, along with a hot drink for when you come out of the water. Take a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch. Wearing a wetsuit will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering cold water shock
  • Never swim alone – always go with a buddy, if possible, to a familiar spot and tell someone when you plan to be back
  • Acclimatise slowly – never jump straight in as this can lead to cold water shock, walk in slowly and wait until your breathing is under control before swimming
  • Be seen – wear a brightly coloured swim cap and consider using a tow float
  • Stay in your depth – know your limits including how long to stay in the water and swim parallel to the shore
  • Float to live – If you get into trouble lean back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing
  • Call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard – if you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble call for help immediately
  • If in doubt, stay out – there is always another day to go for a swim

For the latest RNLI safety advice on a range of activities visit:

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Letting you know
Letting you know
3 months ago

These irisponsible idiots make a decision to put their own life at risk, it’s simply not fair to put our rescue service through this..

Why! Do this???….what’s the point???….please let us now…


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