How to have a fun but safe time by the water
With lockdown easing and everyone desperate for a holiday, in the coming months it is guaranteed a lot of us will be heading to the beach for some sun, fun and relaxation. Whether we’re regulars at the seaside or newbies it’s always worth considering our safety while we’re there, particular if we’re heading down with children. This is our top ten list of things to do to make sure you have a safe time by the sea
1. Be water aware
Tides in the UK run pretty regularly and therefore their height and times follow a timetable. Despite this, people still get in sticky situations where they have been cut off by a quickly rising tide. To avoid getting caught out you can follow two simple steps:
- Check the tide times for the area you’re visiting before you head out
- Keep your eyes peeled for the tides direction and it’s level while you’re out
Rip tides are strong currents of water which flow from the shore out to sea and they can quickly take you from shallow water to out of your depth in no time. They can be difficult to spot, but if you see a section of choppy water running from the shore out to sea, it could be one. Avoid where possible. If you do get caught in one, here’s what to do:
- Don’t panic
- Don’t try to swim against the rip tide as you’ll get exhausted making the situation more dangerous
- If you can stand then do and wade out of it, don’t try and swim
- If you can, swim parallel to the shore (across the rip tide) then once free you can swim back to shore
- Raise your hand for help and continue shouting
Diving from rocks, cliffs, piers and breakwaters
Diving into water without knowing what is underneath it is extremely dangerous. Many people have been permanently injured and many others killed by hitting things under the surface. Even if the area is familiar to you, diving into these areas should be avoided at all costs.
Cold water shock
As the first warm days start to appear and the water begins to look more and more appealing, we can be tempted to get our swimmers on and head into the sea. However, looks can be deceiving and if the water we enter is under 15°C it can seriously affect our breathing and movement (FYI, the average water temperature in the UK is 12°C). This is called cold water shock. It can cause heart attacks in young and healthy people, and causes involuntary gasps for breath. This can happen very quickly and as it doesn’t take much water to cause someone to start drowning, things can get very dangerous very quickly. To avoid cold water shock:
- Check conditions and the water temperature before heading out
- Wear a wetsuit of the right thickness for the time in the water and activity you are doing.
- Wear a buoyancy aid or lifejacket to make sure you’re safe in any circumstance
2. Use the right section of water - beach flags and signs
Different coloured flags are used to ‘zone’ different areas of the beach for different uses and / or warnings. One thing to note: flags are different around the world so please be aware these are for Britain only. If you are travelling abroad, check the county’s own flags and signs.
Red and yellow flags
These display a lifeguarded area. The water between these flags is the safest area to swim, bodyboard and use inflatables.
Black and white chequered flags
This is an area for surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and other non-powered craft, plus the launch and recovery area for kitesurfers and windsurfers. Never swim or bodyboard here.
Red and white chequered flags
This is a shark warning. Probably not one you’ll see in the UK but maybe useful abroad.
This shows the direction of the wind and indicates offshore or strong wind conditions. Never use inflatables when the windsock is flying.
The international colour of DANGER! Never go in the water under any circumstances when the red flag is flying.
3. Use lifeguarded beaches
Lifeguarded beaches will have trained, professionals on hand to help keep everyone safe. Whether you need help in the water, on the beach or answering a question they’ll be there ready to assist. The RNLI manages 1,500 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and you can your nearest beach here.
4. Know your swimming abilities
Before you dive in (literally) to your time in the water, be aware of your own abilities and base any decision on this. Sea swimming can be more strenuous than swimming in a pool or lake, so take note of the tide, waves and temperature to make sure you’re are able to handle what the deep blue might throw at you. Getting in shape by putting in some preparation at your local swimming pool can be beneficial.
5. Where to use inflatables
Everyone loves an inflatable unicorn but Inflatable dinghies, lilos and blow up toys are designed to be used in sheltered and confined areas such as swimming pools, and rock pools. In the open water they are very dangerous as they are easily swept out to sea by the tide and / or wind. If you do happen to end up in or on an inflatable at the beach and get into difficulty then stay with it (it will keep you above the water) and wave your arms and shout for attention. But ideally don’t use them in the first place.
6. How to safely body board
When body boarding, always wear your leash and if you get into trouble, keep hold of your board. It will help to keep you afloat and also makes you easier to spot by lifeguards if you need rescuing. If you’re at a lifeguarded beach, make sure you always bodyboard between the red and yellow flags.
7. Missing children
In the excitement of a day at the beach and the distraction of unpacking of towels and picnics there’s always a chance that a child can run off before you’ve had a chance to grab them. In the unfortunately situation where a child does go missing you should:
- Remain calm and check your immediate surroundings
- Contact the lifeguards or police
- Once found, let everyone know the good news so that they don’t waste time continuing to look
To make any situations safer for all involved the following can be done
- Arrange a meeting point in case people get separated. This can apply to both adults and children
- Some beaches run a safety scheme using wristbands or tickets. They’re free and successful. Speak to the lifeguards on the beach for more details.
- Make sure children are aware of the lifeguards / lifeguard hut as a safe spot they can go to if separated
8. Know how to call for help
If you or someone else ever needs emergency assistance you should call 999 or 112 immediately and ask for the coastguard.
If you happen to have a whistle to hand, his is a great way of calling for help and attracting attention. Failing that, waving your hands above your head and shouting for help will also work.
9. Check whether you should wear a wetsuit
As the water in the UK is reasonably cold most of the year, even after having a few months of sun on it, a wetsuit can be the perfect way to make sure you’re warm and avoid cold water shock. Just make sure you have the right thickness of website for the right time of the year, the area it will be used and the activity. Please check with your chosen supplier.
10. Remember sun safety
With all this talk of water safety it’s easy to forget the big ball of fire in the sky which can be almost as dangerous. To avoid leaving the beach at the end of the day looking like a lobster, in pain and with an increased risk of skin cancer, you also need to be aware of sun safety. To have a fully enjoyable and safe day in the sun you should:
- Make sure you’ve applied waterproof sun cream.
- Wear a hat which shades your head, face, neck and ears
- Don the sunglasses, ideally wraparounds, with UV protection
- Keep your shoulders covered either with a t-shirt or protective suit for children
- In the hottest part of the day (11am -3pm) try to keep out of the sun
- Drink lots of water to keep dehydrated
About Tornado Lifejackets
Tornado Lifejackets are passionate about safety on the water and we want you to enjoy your activities with peace of mind. We therefore sell quality jackets that are affordable and accessible for adults and children. Our lifejackets are all from Europe's largest manufacturers complying to the highest standards for safety include ISO accreditation and CE approval. Our knowledgable team of experts are always on hand to answer any water safety questions you may have.