Water safety

Basic safety guidelines to follow if you’re planning to swim, paddle or sail

Written by spunout


With the weather improving during the summer, swimming is a great way to cool down, relax or get some exercise. However if you are not a confident swimmer it is important to know your limits before going into water in order to stay as safe as possible. All swimming pools have lifeguards and many Irish beaches have lifeguards in the summer. However for wilder and lonelier places it may be more dangerous to swim.

Things to remember when going swimming

  • Be able to swim more than half a length of the pool before heading off into unknown water
  • 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
  • Avoid going 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
  • Avoid going into the water at night or when it’s getting dark
  • Always wear a lifejacket on boats, canoes and jetskis
  • Avoid going swimming or doing watersports after drinking: alcohol is a factor in almost 30% of drownings

Be aware of the fact that here’s a large 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.

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.

If you’ve got a board, boat, dinghy or jet ski, insure you aren’t a danger in the water – watch out for swimmers in the water.

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

Fore more information on staying safe while swimming or taking part in water sports click here.


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