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You’re swept out to sea. What would you do next?

Having prepared well for a solo shore fishing trip, you nonetheless find yourself caught out and are swept out to sea by an unexpected wave. You’re wearing a lifejacket. What do you do next?

Angler Neal Dawes

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Would you:

a) Fight your way back to the rocks?
b) Float until you can control your breathing and assess your situation?
c) Call your family?

Expert answer

Nick Fecher, RNLI Community Safety Product Manager, says: ‘If you get caught out by an unexpected wave, your gut reaction might be to fight your way to the rocks – don’t listen to it. Relax and catch your breath first. 

‘Your lifejacket will help you float, keep your head clear of the water and give you time to get over the cold water shock (answer B). Then you can assess the situation and either look for a way to get out or call for help. 

‘With rock or shore angling, preparation is key. Before you leave, check the weather, tide and swell forecasts. And, most importantly, make sure you’re wearing a lifejacket and carrying a means of calling for help on you.’

‘A lifejacket saved my life’

Last November, experienced fisherman Neal Dews headed out for an early morning fish at Newquay’s Tolcarne Beach. He was wearing his new lifejacket, a birthday present from his wife Zoe. After fishing for an hour, Neal took a well-worn shortcut through a cave. 

‘I saw a small rush of water coming in,’ he remembers. Suddenly, the surf grew stronger. ‘Before I knew it, the waves were on top of me, knocking me clean off my feet. It was like putting a rag doll in a washing machine.’

His lifejacket brought him back to the surface, but he was at the mercy of the receding waves. In desperation, he clung to a rock and pulled himself up onto it until the water rushed away. Battered and bruised, he managed to clamber to safety.

‘If it wasn’t for that lifejacket, I wouldn’t be here,’ he says. ‘It saved my life’.

Read more of Neal’s story.