Cold water dipping is a lot of fun, when it’s safe.
To keep you safe, we’ve outlined some of the things that every cold-water dipper should be aware of. All the links provided are to reliable sources.
TOP 5 TIPS to stay safe when Cold water dipping outdoors:
- Go with friends, or tell people what you’re doing. There’s safety in numbers.
- Take your phone in a waterproof pouch so you have means of contact
- Don’t go out of your depth
- Take lots of warm clothing to wrap up in afterwards, and a hot drink.
- Check if outdoor water is clear of sewage spills on our SSRS app.
CONQUERING THE COLD
There’s no beating around the bush. This challenge involves the cold. And with the cold, comes some safety considerations.
Entering cold water can cause ‘cold water shock’. This is a normal reaction from the body, where the breathing and heart rate increase dramatically on entering the water. Hyperventilating in water can be dangerous, so it’s important to enter the water slowly, don’t go out of your depth, and focus on slow, steady breaths.
When exposed to the cold, hypothermia can also be a risk. Always take warm clothing to wrap up after your swim, go in a group where possible, and don’t stay in the water for longer than you feel comfortable. Always take your mobile phone with you in a waterproof pouch in case of an emergency.
Make sure you’re aware of the tide times before you go dipping. Some locations get cut off by the tide when it comes in. Surfline provides free tide time information.
STAY IN DEPTH
Rips. It’s really key to remain within depth when dipping in wild waters. There can be really strong currents that aren’t visible, namely Rip Currents. Staying within depth not only keeps you safe from getting caught in a current, but also more visible to other’s on the shoreline.
Float to live. If you find yourself struggling in the water, float to live. follow these tips from RNLI:
- Float to Live.
- Fight your instinct to thrash around.
- Lean back, extend your arms and legs.
- If you need to, gently move them around to help you float.
- Float until you can control your breathing.
- Only then, call for help, swim to safety or continue floating until help arrives.
If you’ve inhaled water. If you’re ever in a situation where you’ve inhaled salt water, it’s really important that you go to a doctors to get your lungs checked. This is to rule out Secondary drowning.
It’s worth familiarising yourself with the RNLI’s general water safety advice.
- Submerged objects. Don’t jump or dive into water, walk in slowly in case there’s submerged objects or rocks.
- Slips, trips & falls. It’s always best to go in a group, so that there’s people around you to help should you find yourself in a sticky situation. Always carry your mobile in a waterproof pouch as a means of calling for help around water.
- In a coastal emergency, call 999 if you’re in the UK (or 112 if you’re in Ireland) and ask for the coastguard.
When entering wild waters, you’ll likely encounter wildlife. The RNLI have summarised some of the common wildlife to be aware of, and what to do should you encounter them. Hopefully, you’ll have some amazing moments encountering beautiful wildlife like seals, birds and other aquatic creatures.
POLLUTION AND WATER QUALITY
Before your swim, make sure the coast is clear! As experts campaigning to end sewage pollution, we have created a dedicated app where anyone can check in real time whether their local bathing water is safe to enter. Download (or update) our Safer Seas and River Service app:
It’s good to be aware of quicksand – what it is, where it can be found, and what to do if you are walking across it. This article answers all of those questions. National Geographic also explains that ‘Quicksand has a density of about 2 grams per milliliter. But human density is only about 1 gram per milliliter. At that level of density, sinking in quicksand is impossible. You would descend about up to your waist, but you’d go no further.’ Always go with a friend – there’s safety in numbers.
If you’re getting in cold water outside, it’s always wise to check the weather before you head out for your swim. If there’s any signs of electrical storms, do not go dipping outdoors. It would be safest to do your cold water dip inside in your shower or bath instead for any extreme warning weather days.
Also, only dip outdoors in the daylight.
Algae can be harmful, so be sure to read this guidance from the Environment Agency on harmful algae and what to look out for.
ICE BATHS & COLD SHOWERS
Introduce yourself to the cold water gradually to acclimatise to the cold. If you feel very cold, disorientated or dizzy seek help immediately. After your cold immersion, warm up gradually. Always tell friends and family that you’re doing the challenge.
Be aware of the affects of alcohol before entering the water:
- Alcohol lowers inhibitions, leading to impaired judgment which means you are more likely to take risks and get into trouble in the water
- Alcohol limits muscle ability making simple movements much harder
- Alcohol slows down your reactions making it more difficult to get yourself out of trouble
- Alcohol numbs the senses particularly sight, sound and touch, making swimming very difficult and ability to judge your temperature harder
- If you have underlying health conditions (i.e. heart disease, asthma, lung conditions) or any other medical conditions that might be affected by exposure to cold water, or if you are pregnant, then please seek appropriate medical advice before proceeding.
- Do not take part in the challenge under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- We do not recommend anyone under the age of 18 participate in the challenge unless supervised by an adult.
- This challenge is entirely at your own risk, so please assess your ability and safety before you participate. Surfers Against Sewage shall not be liable for any injury, damage or loss to you or your property that might occur as a result of your participation.
- We strongly advise you let friends / family know about your participation in this challenge.
- We do not advise undertaking an open water swim unsupervised.
- If you feel very cold, disorientated or dizzy seek help immediately.
- After your cold water dip, warm up gradually. Pat yourself dry and put on warm, dry layers.
- For more info and guidance on cold water, visit https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/tips-on-winter-swimming/