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

Share this story

Contact us

Do you have anything to add to this story?

We like to keep everything up-to-date, so if you know more, please help us by getting in touch.


Top stories

Child injured in dog attack at Swanage pub Police officers and the air ambulance were all called to help after a child was injured in an incident involving a dog in a pub garden in Swanage. 1 month ago Historic Studland home goes on the market for £5 million 4 weeks ago Back with a splash – Swanage Fish Festival returns for 2023 5 days ago Paddle steamer returns to Swanage after appeal keeps her afloat 3 weeks ago Surrey couple ditch corporate life for Dorset safari venture 6 days ago

Most recent

Swanage’s swimmers take second dip into theatre performance After the sell out show of SW!M in 2022 - a combination of storytelling on the stage followed by dancing and swimming in Swanage Bay - the all-female group is ... 4 hours ago Food for thought as Swanage opens second mobile larder 1 day ago New snorkel school explores life under the sea in Swanage 2 days ago Newly discovered 1930s posters to jazz up Swanage’s Mowlem 3 days ago Call to help improve health services in Swanage during time of change 4 days ago