How to Stay Safe in the Water

Whether by a loch or at the beach, it's important to stay safe.

This article will share some tips, including advice from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), on how to stay safe in and around water.

What to remember if you or someone you know gets into trouble in the water

The most important things to remember about water safety are:

  • If you find yourself in difficulty in the water, float to increase your chances of survival.
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

The RNLI's 'Float to Live' advice encourages you to fight your instinct to struggle if you get into difficulties in the water and instead follow these five steps:

  1. Fight your instinct to thrash around.
  2. Lean back, extend your arms and legs.
  3. If you need to, gently move them around to help you float.
  4. Float until you can control your breathing.
  5. Only then, call for help, swim to safety or continue floating until help arrives.

They have created this video about what to do if you find yourself in cold water unexpectedly.

Keeping safe in and near water

Tips to stay safe near water

Stand up paddleboarding safety tips

This can be a fun activity to do with friends, especially during summer when the weather is nice.

However, you should take precautions in order to stay as safe as possible. The RNLI's tips for staying safe are: 

  • If you can, always go with a friend. It’s more fun, and they can help you if you get into difficulty.
  • If you are going out alone, always tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back. Don't leave the house without a mobile phone or communication device.
  • Bringing your phone to take some photos? Make sure you keep it in a waterproof pouch. That way it won’t get wet, and you can use it to call for help in an emergency too.
  • Check the weather forecast and tide times before you set out. If the water is too choppy, you might find it difficult, especially if you are a beginner. And be aware, the conditions can change quickly. 
  • Avoid offshore winds. They will quickly blow your paddleboard far out to sea, which can make it extremely tiring and difficult to paddle back to shore.
  • You should wear a suitable personal flotation device. This can be a buoyancy aid or a lifejacket. Choose one that still allows you plenty of movement so you can paddle freely. Not only will it keep you afloat, but it will also help give you time to recover should you fall in – and chances are you will!
  • Wear suitable clothing for the time of year. In the winter, you will want to use a wet or dry suit. In the summer, you might be able to get away with a swim suit. But if you are going to be in the water for a long time, you might want to upgrade to something that keeps you warm. 
  • You should always use a paddleboard with a appropriate leash. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to swim after your paddleboard if you fall off. The leash will also help you stay connected to your board if you get into trouble and help you float. British Canoeing has some great tips to help you decide which leash is right for you.
  • If you are launching on a lifeguarded beach, make sure you launch and recover between the black and white chequered flags. There should be less swimmers in this area, giving you more room to manoeuvre. Consider other water users by learning the rights of way in the surf. This can save you and others getting injured.
  • Get the appropriate level of training. You might be tempted to just buy a board and head out. Having a few training sessions can teach you the right technique, so it’s more stand-up and less fall-in paddleboarding!

You can read more about stand up paddleboarding safety on the RNLI site.

Head to the RNLI website for more information and advice about water safety.

Check out Get Into Summer for more hints, tips, ideas and activities for this summer.