Basic safety guidelines to follow if you're planning to plunge, paddle or sail
All swimming pools have lifeguards and many Irish beaches have lifeguards in the summer. However for wilder and lonelier places you're going to have to use some common sense.
- Be able to swim more than half a length of the pool before heading off into unknown water. Don't be overconfident.
- Only swim on beaches that have lifeguards unless you are a very experienced swimmer or watersports person. Check Irish Water Safety for a list of lifeguarded areas around Ireland.
- The best way to make sure you're safe is to get proper training in your local swimming club. Joining other watersports clubs (canoeing, surfing, windsurfing, sailing) will help you become more confident in the water.
- Never go swimming, sailing or surfing alone.
- Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back.
- Remember to avoid going in the water for at least one hour after eating.
- There's a huge difference between a swimming pool and the sea. Watch out for rip currents (water flowing rapidly), the wind blowing your board or boat out to sea and stormy seas (big, nasty waves).
- If you're going somewhere new, local knowledge is the best defence. Talk to lifeguards, experienced surfers or sailors, watersports shops, local fishermen or just the local people to find out if there are any dangers in the area.
- Never go into the water at night or when it's getting dark.
- If you've got a board, boat, dinghy or jet ski, DON'T become a danger in the water. Watch out for swimmers in the water and don't presume that everyone wants to see you showing off beside them.
- If you get into trouble: slowly and repeatedly wave your arms up and down. If you've got a board or boat, stay with it.
- Inflatable toys (rings, airbeds, dinghies, etc) can be trouble in the water, where underwater currents and even light winds carry the toys away from shore. If you're on the toy when this happens it's seriously dangerous. The best way to stay safe is to not use inflatable toys at all.
- Always wear a lifejacket on boats, canoes and jetskis.
- Never go swimming or do watersports after drinking: alcohol is a factor in almost 30% of drownings.