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RNLI and local cold water swimmers offer advice ahead of festive swim period

Lifeboats News Release

Christmas and New Years dips are just around the corner, and with many of the usual events cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, the RNLI and seasoned swimmers are urging those thinking of taking the plunge in the south west this winter to follow vital safety advice.


Swimmers from the Newquay 'swimminwimmin' group

Many of the usual planned festive swimming events – which often have safety cover - have been cancelled this year due to Covid-19 safety precautions. The RNLI is urging those who decide to go for a dip around Christmas or New Years to be extra cautious and understand the risks and how to stay safe before entering the cold water.

In early December, the volunteer RNLI crew at Portishead, Somerset, rescued a sea swimmer who could not get back to shore and had been in the sea for 80 minutes when the lifeboat arrived. The RNLI encourages people to enjoy our coastal waters but the charity’s aim is that everyone should come home safely at the end of the day.

On Wednesday at Towan beach, Newquay, sea swimmers Ann-Marie Dale and Katie Richards were on hand to explain how to enjoy a cold water dip while staying safe this winter.

Ann-Marie Dale, who volunteers as Lifeboat Press Officer at Newquay RNLI, took up swimming during the lockdown in March and has been continuing to take the plunge even as the temperature has dropped. She said:

‘There are a number of things to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time in the water. It is really important to go into the water slowly so you can get used to the temperature and avoid cold water shock. Always swim with someone else, stay in your depth and know how to warm up properly afterwards. That may sound obvious but is very important to avoid any delayed effects of the cold.’

‘If you’re not feeling up to it that day, please stay out of the water. The sea will still be there for another swim tomorrow – and the day after. If you or anyone else does get into trouble please call 999 immediately and ask for the Coastguard.’

Katie Richards runs ‘swimminwimmin’ a new Newquay-based group with over 300 active members. She has been for a swim in the sea every day since the start of 2020.

‘Local swimming groups are a great way to find others to swim with safely and keep up to date with important advice for your area – such as sea temperatures, tides, and swell. It’s also a great way to learn tips from for experienced swimmers, like the importance of staying visible with colourful caps and tow floats.

‘Fortunately, no one in our group has needed rescuing but many of us are down here today swimming safely as part of a ’12 Bays of Christmas’ swimming challenge to fundraise for Newquay RNLI and in recognition of the fact that those volunteers are always on hand if any of us did get into difficulty. We have so far raised over £3000.’

The RNLI’s key safety advice for taking a winter dip is:

  • Don’t 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 or a hot water bottle 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 and ask for the Coastguard

RNLI lifesavers continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep people safe as people flocked to the coast this summer, and our dedicated volunteers will remain on call 24/7 throughout Christmas, ready to launch to save lives at sea. As a charity, the RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever.

To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit:


Notes to editors:

· Photos attached – credit RNLI

· The RNLI’s cold water swimming 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

Media contacts

For more information please contact Marianne Quinn, Regional Media Officer on 07786 668847 or [email protected], or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager for the South West on 07920818807 or [email protected].


Swimmers from the Newquay 'swimminwimmin' group


Swimmers in the water for the 12 Bays of Christmas fundraising challenge


Getting dry and warm afterwards

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.