Wild Swimming Advice
There has been a big surge in open water and wild swimming this year in Cornwall, and this has continued into the winter months. Our colleagues at East Cornwall Search & Rescue Team, as well as many other Coast Safe partners have put out advice to help keep you safe in the water. We thought it would be good to share this to our audience in West Cornwall, due to the amount of inviting and accessible locations to take a dip.
With a local HM Coastguard unit reporting a 52% increase in swimming incidents around the coasts, please take a look at some of the RNLI open water safety information below and remember that the water temperature can be anywhere between 8-12 degrees celsius around this time of year! It will be even colder on the body with windchill.
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
Visit https://rnli.org/safety/choose-your-activity/open-water-swimming for more info.
Before you go
Going for a swim in cold, open water can be exhilarating, but it’s not without risk. So if it’s your first time open water swimming or cold water dipping, it’s important to speak to a health care professional to discuss the risks of cold water immersion before you go.
Always arrange to go with a buddy. Open water swimming is much more fun with someone else, and you can look out for each other. It’s also good to tell someone on shore where you are going and when you will be back. They’ll be able to call for help if you are overdue back.
Before you enter the water, assess the conditions. If the water is too rough for swimming, don’t get in. Know your limits – depending on the conditions, you may need to swim less or closer to the bank or shore. The temperature of the air and water is also important – the colder the water and air temperature, the quicker you will cool down. So the colder it is, the less time you should spend in the water.
When you go open water swimming, it’s very important to enter the water slowly and allow time for your body to get used to the cold. Never jump or dive straight in, as this could cause cold water shock.
To help yourself acclimatise, splash the cold water on your neck and face. Try not to hold your breath for an extended time when you first get into the water.
Once you are in the water, remember that cold water immersion can seriously affect your swimming ability. Stay within your depths and swim parallel to the shore. The wind can push you off course when open water swimming, keep an eye on your exit point and make sure you can return to it.
Calling for Help
You should always carry a means of calling for help when open water swimming or cold water dipping. This could be a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch. Remember, if you don’t have any mobile phone signal, don’t panic. You can still try calling 999 or 112, even if your own mobile phone network has no coverage. Your phone will try to connect to any other network available.