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 your instinct 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

    Float

    until you can control your breathing

  5. 5

    Only then, call 999 for help

    or swim to safety

Test your knowledge

If you're struggling in the water you should:

Man floating in the sea lying on his back

Well done!

If you're struggling in the water you should Float to Live. Fight the urge to thrash around. Lean back and extend your arms and legs. You can move them around to help you to float. Float until you can control your breathing. Only then, call 999 or 112 for help or swim to safety.

Man floating in the sea lying on his back

That's not quite right

If you're struggling in the water you should Float to Live. Fight the urge to thrash around. Lean back and extend your arms and legs. You can move them around to help you to float. Float until you can control your breathing. Only then, call 999 or 112 for help or swim to safety.

Man floating in the sea lying on his back
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 will lose control of your breathing and movement and you could drown. Cold water shock also causes your heart rate and blood pressure to 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

What are 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.’ 
Evan

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