Sea swimmers warned to “respect the water” this winter

Following the drowning of a man in Studland Bay and the sudden increased popularity of swimming in the sea this year due to the closure of indoor pools because of Covid, the RNLI is warning of the dangers of cold water swimming.

The tragedy struck on Friday 6th November 2020 when a 61-year-old man from Wareham, died after getting into difficulty while swimming in Studland Bay. The Swanage Coastguard team was among the emergency response teams called to help.

As winter sets in, any swimmers setting out into the sea should expect much colder conditions and while wild swimming can boost fitness and mental health, it can also be dangerous.

The RNLI has now released a new film and issued advice for how swimmers can enjoy themselves safely in Dorset’s waters.

Tips for swimmers

  • Never swim alone
  • Be sure to check the weather forecast, including for tide and wave information
  • If in doubt, stay out
  • Keep warm – including warm clothes for before and after the swim and a hot drink
  • Wear a wetsuit to help increase buoyancy
  • Wear a brightly coloured swim cap and even a tow float
  • Slowly acclimatise to the water’s temperatures
  • Know your limits and make sure you stay in depth
  • If in trouble, float on the water by leaning back, extending your arms and legs, and not thrashing around
  • Keep a mobile phone with you in a waterproof pouch
  • If you or someone else is in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard
Alison Milmer swimming
LIBRARY IMAGE / Alison Milmer

Experienced cold water swimmers wear bright swimming caps and never swim alone

“Respect the water”

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.”

Watch the RNLI sea swimming video

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