Desperately wanting to break free for a while from daily worry about the coronavirus and lockdown life people are turning up at the beaches in droves. In the excitement of being outdoors in the fresh air they are not always as careful as they should be. It’s a dangerous situation because swimming is a life skill that not everyone has the benefit of learning, especially in the black community. Organisations such as the Black Swimmers Association and Swim Dem Crew, as well as brands like Soul Cap and Nemes are doing their part to change narrative in the UK. It’s a fact that the BAME community is twice likely to die from coronavirus AND within that 95 % of blacks don’t swim, according to Sports England’s report. You can see why as we are social distancing during this pandemic, it’s just as important we know how to stay safe on seaside.
Staying Safe On The Seaside
As a family, we enjoy swimming in the sea but we only go to the beach in the summer. The chilly water is more bearable, then. The kids always get over excited but I often remind them that the sea is not the pool, where they learnt to swim. There are currents that can pull you further out to sea. Adults are just as likely to make same errors in judgement, as we have seen in the news. True, no one goes to the beach expecting to get into difficulty. Nonetheless, it’s prudent to follow the suggestions of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).
Before Entering The Sea
- Be aware of the dangers (check the weather forecast and tide times)
- Know your limits and don’t take risks
- Go with others and look out for each other
- Make sure your phone is charged so you can call for help if you come across anyone who needs it.
On Entering The Sea
Once on the beach and you’ve set up camp; assess if the water conditions exceed your ability. Then on entering the water:
- take a moment to acclimatise to the water temperature,
- make sure you have someone watching from the beach to provide shore cover and they have a way to call for help in the event of an emergency.
Coastal walking is another way to enjoy the sea and social distance. Before you go, try to find out as much as you can about the path you want to explore. Don’t go too close to edges and cliffs in an attempt to capture ‘the shot’ for Instagram..
In the event of slipping or tripping while on a coastal walk, the RNLI advises:
- Take a minute: The initial shock of being in cold water can cause you to gasp and panic. Effects of cold water shock pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away.
- Relax and FLOAT TO LIVE. Lean back, extend your arms and legs, and Float). While floating your catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float.
- Keep calm: Once you are calm, call for help. Swim for safety if you are able.
We tried bodyboarding last year while in Llanelli. Honestly, the kids were better at it than hubby and I. Our inflatable bodyboards could just about keep us afloat in the water let alone glide. It was hysterical really. On Pembrey Beach it was too rough for us. Between the jelly fish and they constant tumbles we had had enough. Thinking back, we were not as careful as we thought were were.
If you want to try bodyboarding, here are 7 ways to stay safe:
- Always bodyboard between the red and yellow flags. It’s easy to be caught out in the sea.
- Wear your leash and hold onto your board if you get into trouble – it will help you float.
- Bodyboard with a mate, especially in big swell. Look out for one another.
- Remember to check your equipment for damage before use.
- Check the local forecast for wind, tide and swell. Don’t go on the water in conditions above your capability.
- Consider other water users.
- Follow safety advice from the lifeguards, Surfing Great Britain and the English Bodyboard Club.
We are now socially distancing 1M in England. Now more than ever green spaces, woodlands and the beaches being sought out for physical and mental health. Nonetheless, personal safety must be tantamount. Remember FLOAT TO LIVE.
In case coastal emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
If you are able to, support organisations and brands that are working hard to help more people in the black community learn how to swim.