If you found yourself struggling in the water unexpectedly, your instinct would tell you to swim hard. But cold water shock could make you gasp uncontrollably. Then you could breathe in water and drown. Instead, you should Float to Live.

How to float

5 steps to know how to float

  1. 1

    If you're struggling in the water

    fight the urge to thrash around

  2. 2

    Lean back

    extend your arms and legs

  3. 3

    Gently move them around

    to help you float if you need to

  4. 4


    until you can control your breathing

  5. 5

    Only then, call 999 or 112 for help

    or swim to safety

A man is in the water, gasping for air.

What is cold water shock?

When in cold water (anything below 15°C), your body can go into cold water shock. If this happens, you lose control of your breathing and movement. Cold water shock also causes your heart rate and blood pressure to quickly increase, which can lead to cardiac arrest.

The average sea temperature around the UK and Ireland is just 12°C. Inland waters like lakes, rivers, lochs and reservoirs can be colder - even in the summer. Remember, if you find yourself in difficulty in the water, Float to Live.

Rip current

Rip currents

Rip currents are powerful currents that run out to sea. They can quickly drag you away from the shore and into deep water.

They can be difficult to spot, and it’s easy to get caught out by them. The best way to avoid rip currents is to choose a lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags. You can always ask RNLI lifeguards for advice.

Evan Chrisp, a teenage boy who floated to live, is stood on the beach.
Evan Chrisp survived a rip current by floating to live

Survivor stories

Knowing how to float could save your life in an emergency. That’s something Evan Chrisp knows all too well. While swimming in the sea, he got caught in a rip current and was quickly dragged away from the shore. Thankfully, he floated to live.

I just want to thank everyone at the RNLI for raising awareness through this campaign, because, ultimately, it saved my life.


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Call 999 or 112
In a coastal emergency, call 999 if you’re in the UK or 112 if you’re in Ireland and ask for the coastguard.
How to call for help
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Choose your activity
From surfing to angling, here you can find our safety advice for whichever activity you enjoy doing at the coast.
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Before you head to the beach, see our latest tips for how you, your friends and your family can have a fun and safe time.
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Know the risks
With changing tides, strong rip currents and powerful waves, the coast can be dangerous. Understand the common risks and how to minimise them.
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