North West open water swimmer backs new RNLI safety video

Lifeboats News Release

With indoor pools closed for much of the year due to Covid-19, there has been an explosion of interest and participation in outdoor swimming and dipping with many people trying it for the very first time


RNLI Community Manager Sophie Wood is a keen open water swimmer

Now the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has released a new safety advice video for anyone considering taking a dip in the sea this winter.

Sophie Wood, RNLI Community Manager for the Cheshire, Wirral and Greater Manchester is a keen open water swimmer. Sophie, who lives in Marple, Cheshire, is a regular at locations including Lake Pickmere in Knutsford, Aqua Park in Delamere and Three Shires Head, Cheshire. She says whilst most open water swimmers enjoy themselves completely safely, is it important to be aware of the potential dangers of taking a dip in the sea at this time of year.

Sophie said:

‘There are well-documented physical and mental health benefits of open water swimming. As I don’t live on the coast, I have put a lot of time into searching safe places to swim in rivers and lakes. Open water swimming is such a tonic and really kept me going especially during lockdown, it really does set me up for the day.

‘I swim every weekend and early in the morning, but I never go alone. It can be so dangerous if you are unaware or under-prepared. I always take a flask and warm clothes. The purpose of this video is to help you enjoy it safely. I hope that people will share the video and the safety advice in it with their family, friends and swimming groups.’

There have been several recent incidents around the UK and Ireland and earlier this month a 61-year-old man drowned after getting into trouble while swimming in the sea in Dorset.

The short YouTube video is presented by two members of the RNLI’s water safety team, Nick Ayers and Liam Fayle-Parr - both experienced open water swimmers themselves.

It is aimed primarily at people who are new to the sport or who want to bob around in the sea for a while, rather than more experienced open water swimmers - although the advice applies to anyone entering cold water this winter.

Gareth Morrison, RNLI Head of Water Safety said:

‘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.’

The RNLI in the North West works closely with Adventure Smart UK to raise awareness of the risks around various activities such as open water swimming.

Paul Donovan, Adventure Smart UK Project Manager, said:

‘As partners in the Adventure Smart campaign, the RNLI actively work with other organisations to encourage people to take simple steps to ensure their outdoor adventures are both safe and fun - together we urge people to #BeAdventureSmart. For more information go to"

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

*To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, go to:


Notes to editors:

· Interviews are available via phone, Skype, or Microsoft Teams

· The safety video can be viewed here

· For more safety visit

· The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations around the coast of the UK and Ireland, and they continue to launch to those in peril at sea

For more information, please contact Danielle Rush, RNLI Regional Media Manger in Wales and the West on 07786 886629 or RNLI National Media Officer Andy Rose on 07976 523794 or email Alternatively, contact the press office on 01202 336789 or


RNLI Community Manager Sophie Wood is a keen open water swimmer


RNLI Community Manager Sophie Wood is a keen open water swimmer


RNLI Community Manager Sophie Wood is a keen open water swimmer

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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