How to be safe sea swimming this summer

Pic: Alejandra Ezquerro

While there is nothing quite like the thrill of jumping into the sea and getting the adrenaline rush alongside it, the ocean is unpredictable and it is important to be safe.

Sea swimming has blown up in recent years in Ireland and with more and more people picking it up we have put together some top tips for being as safe as you can while sea swimming this summer.

Location and conditions:

It is always better to swim in a monitored area with a lifeguard.

Check your location and if there are any hazards, check what the tide and currents are doing.

You should also check the tide times before entering the water as well as be aware of rip currents and know how to spot them.

Water Safety Ireland describes the appearance of a rip current:

  1. A channel of churning, choppy water.
  2. An area having a notable difference in water colour.
  3. A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward.
  4. A break in the incoming wave pattern. None, one, or more of the above clues may indicate the presence of rip currents.

If you are caught in a rip current do not try to swim against it. Swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.

Be seen!

Wearing a wetsuit is a good way to help you stay warm and allows you to stay in the water for longer.

Wearing brighter colours right down to your swimming hat can help you be seen easier in the water.

Experienced swimmers recommend bringing a brightly coloured tow buoy with you, not only does it help you stay seen it can save your life and help you float if you get too tired.


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While you may be inclined to think that jumping right into the ocean will make it easier to deal with the cold, you are wrong. This is actually quite dangerous.

Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement, the average Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C.

Therefore jumping or diving right in could cause cold water shock which is the precursor to drowning.

Try splashing the cold water on your neck and face before going in and avoid holding your breath for an extended time upon entering the water.

Pic: Todd Quackenbush
Bring your phone!

Investing in a waterproof case or pouch which allows you to call for help if you need could save your life!

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution recommends downloading the Irish Sailing SafeTrx app which can track your swim and alert emergency contacts if you fail to return home on time.

Even if you do need to call and don’t have a mobile phone signal, don’t panic. You can still try calling 999 or 112, even if your own mobile phone network has no coverage your phone will actually try to connect to any other network available.

Following just these few tips can make your experience much safer and more enjoyable this summer.

This Water Safety Ireland video sums everything up pretty well;

Swimmers enjoy it safely. Safe never swim alone. Safe knows local tides and currents. Safe wears a brightly coloured tow buoy. Sorry? Sorry shouldn’t be in the water.

Remember to stay safe this summer and happy sea swimming!


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