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How to survive a fall off the rocks

The more adventurous side of shore fishing is a draw for many anglers. The thought of scrambling round a rocky headland late into the evening may seem like madness to some, but to those committed to making that elusive catch, it can be a way of life.

Fishing rod on the rocks

Photo: Shutterstock

Like all activities in and around the water, taking the right precautions and carrying the right kit is vital. It ensures you have the freedom to focus on enjoying your sport and helps you get out of trouble if you do fall in.

Around 12 anglers were swept from the rocks while fishing between 2010 and 2013, and tragically lost their lives (RNLI analysis of WAID). The RNLI is now working with the leisure angling community to increase awareness of risks and help people enjoy their sport safely.

So what can you do? You’re out fishing; it’s early Spring. There is a steady swell running, nothing spectacular. A freak wave catches you out and before you know it you’ve been pulled off the rocks and into the sea.

You can’t control the sea, but that doesn’t mean it’s all out of your hands.

Your chances of survival are hugely reliant on the kit and clothing you choose to carry and wear before you end up in the water. Here are some simple steps for you to follow that can mean the difference between life and death.

Step-by-step guide from the RNLI’s Chris Adams

1. Stay calm!

Your lifejacket should inflate automatically, but if not, pull the toggle to fill it with air. Cold water shock increases your heart rate and you’ll gasp for air. If you don’t wear a lifejacket or another form of flotation, your chances of survival are drastically reduced.

2. Protect yourself

Waves may push you towards rocks, but climbing out may be impossible. Instead, float on your back and keep your legs up, slightly bent, in front of you. Push back off the rocks with your feet. Keep your back to waves to prevent water from hitting your face.

3. Raise the alarm

If there are people nearby, wave, shout for help, blow a whistle if you have one. Call mayday with a hand-held VHF radio, dial 999/112 from a mobile, or activate a personal locator beacon. Make sure your means of calling for help is within reach and you know how to use it.

4. HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Posture)

Keep your arms tucked in across your body and your legs pulled up in front of you to minimise heat loss while you wait for help to arrive. If you’re being pushed towards rocks, use your arms to scull backwards, away from the danger.

5. Attract attention

When help gets near, use anything you have on you to attract attention. Pinpoint flares are designed for this, and even something as simple as wearing a jacket with reflective tape on the shoulders will increase your visibility to others.

Get more RNLI advice on angling safely here.