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A young man is fully clothed in the open water. His face is above the water, looking up to the sky, and his arms and legs are stretched out, gently moving to help him stay afloat.

Float to Live

Would you know what to do if you got into difficulty in the water? Float by following these five simple steps – it could save your life.

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. 

The best way to float is to tilt your head back with your ears submerged. Try to relax and breathe normally. You can gently move your hands to help you stay afloat if you need to. Spread your arms and legs out to improve stability – and it's OK if your legs sink, we all float differently. Once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety.

How to float

5 steps to know how to float

However you end up in the water, if you end up in difficulty, Float to Live.

  1. 1

    Tilt your head back

    with ears submerged

  2. 2


    and try to breathe normally

  3. 3

    Move your hands

    to help you stay afloat

  4. 4

    It's OK if your legs sink

    we all float differently

  5. 5

    Spread your arms and legs

    to improve stability

Remember it. Share it.

Make sure your loved ones know what do if they get into difficulty too. Help them learn how to float.

A fully-clothed man underwater after falling into the water


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.

Tina West, who remembered to Float to Live when she got into difficulty in the sea in Cornwall, is smiling at the camera with a harbour behind her on a sunny day.

RNLI/Jimmy Young

Tina's story

Knowing how to float could save your life in an emergency. That’s something Tina knows all too well. On a late September day in Cornwall, Tina went out for a shallow paddle in the sea – but as she tried to put her foot down, she couldn’t touch the bottom. Tina had been caught in a rip current and was quickly being dragged out to sea. Thankfully, she remembered to float.

‘I remembered seeing the Float to Live campaign on the big screens near my work in Portsmouth. The technique allowed me to relax a bit, and float over the waves until the lifeguards came’ - Tina

Close portrait of Evan looking at camera, telling his story of how Float to Live saved his life
Float to Live stories

Meet the people who helped save their own life by floating to live - and share them with your friends and family.

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Float to Live resources
This Float to Live Toolkit could save lives. The only thing it needs is you. Download and share these resources.
Download resources
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