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Beach Safety

April 7, 2015 No Comments

Falmouth-cornish holiday cottages-69

We want all our Cornish Holiday Cottage guests to enjoy their time on our beautiful Cornish beaches. That’s why we are profiling some of our favourite beaches in the run up to the summer. But while you may have found the factor 50 at the back of a kitchen draw, dragged out from the garage and practiced sucking in your gut in front of the mirror (don’t worry, you’ve still got it), there’s still a lot to keep in mind. Especially if you’re a parent: there are the buckets and the spades and the extra clothes and the sun tent and the wind break and the sandwiches…the list goes on. But above all else there’s the safety of you and your children, both in and out of the water, to consider.

A friend, who used to spend the summer lifeguarding while we were at university, came to the pub one evening fuming. He was the angriest I think I’ve ever seen him. That day at work, on a not particularly rough day, he had to rescue two young children from a rip current that was slowly dragging them out to sea. As he told the story he made it absolutely clear how close to exhaustion these children were when he got to them. He didn’t think they’d have lasted much longer.

Once they got back to dry land, he looked for their parents. They were right at the back of the beach sunbathing. The mum was asleep with her iPod on. That is what had made my friend angry – how oblivious she was to her children’s safety. She had come incredibly close to losing both her children and wasn’t aware that anything had happened.

A little closer to home is the small scar I have on my nose. It’s been there since I was 4 or 5. On Mother’s Day my parents and I had gone out to Praa Sands for the day and we were strolling along the beach. That was it. Just walking and throwing the odd stone, when a wave lunged at us, knocking my parents over and dragging me back out with it. Apparently, it took two more waves crashing against the shore to pull me from the water. If wasn’t for good luck and quick actions, I wouldn’t be here now.

It’s not just children that need to be careful: last year three adults lost their lives trying to help some surfers who’d got into trouble on Mawnan Porth beach. Anyone can get into trouble.

There are lots of good guides to beach and water safety, including this leaflet from the RNLI. http://www.visitnewquay.org/dbimgs/Know%20Your%20Flags.pdf

But here are some of our Cornish Holiday Cottage tips to go through before heading out into the rolling waves.

  1. 1.       Know your swimming limits

If the water looks too rough for you, then you are right. Always be cautious and don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation. Take note that we’ve said ‘know’ your limits, not ‘push’ your limits.

  1. 2.       Recognise Rip Currents.

Rip currents or undertows are channels of water flowing from the beach and back out to sea. All the water that is pushed in by waves has to go somewhere and this water is pushed to the side by the next incoming wave, until it finds a passage back out. This is normally where the water is at its deepest and is made more so by the outgoing water channel.

You can usually see rip currents by watching the water for signs – are there areas where the waves aren’t breaking or where the white water vanishes? That’s where the water is pulling back out and is deeper. It might even look like the calmest, safest bit of water. Guide your children away from that area. Most probably, the Lifeguards will have spotted it before you and put up flags as guidance.

The BBC have created a handy video on rip currents: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25559412

  1. 3.       Know how to escape a rip current

If you try to swim back to shore you are going to make no progress and just exhaust yourself.  To imagine what it’s like, picture trying to swim against the current in a swimming pool’s wild river, only stronger. It’s an easy fix though, so don’t panic: swim parallel to the shore. Chances are the rip is only a few meters wide and once you are out, getting back to dry land should be easy.

  1. 4.       Make sure there’s always someone to watch your children

You can’t always watch your children: we all need a pee break. But don’t just assume that someone else is going to be watching them (this is a problem in groups). There are three other adults around, so someone’s going to be watching them, right? Everyone else is probably thinking the same thing. Ask someone to specifically keep an eye out – and threaten them with the sharp end of your plastic spade if they stop before you come back.

  1. 5.       Talk to the lifeguard and read the signs

The lifeguards know the beach and the ocean better than we ever will. In the space of one summer they might spend more time in the ocean than some people will in their entire lives. So, they may only be nineteen years old, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing.We don’t always know best. Some locals have even been part of surf lifesaving clubs from an early age – they’ve been training for this job for years. Say hi, ask them where the safest spots are and if you’re not a particularly strong swimmer, ask them to keep a keen eye out for your children.

  1. 6.       The difference between playing and being in trouble

Children make a lot of noise when they’re playing. They don’t when they are struggling in the water. When someone is in desperate need of help in the water, they are often struggling for breath. They cannot scream for help. When children get quiet in the water, you get to them and find out why.

  1. 7.       Be cautious in unfamiliar waters

Even if you’re a strong swimmer, make sure you know what you are getting into. I’m a big fan of coasteering, which sometimes involves jumping from 10 or more metres into the sea. I always check the depth of the water before I jump in a new place. That goes for any reason you are using the water. Ask the locals and look for potential problems. If an area is free from other swimmers, then there might be a reason. There might be rip currents, sewage run offs or something else that you are not aware of.

 

Be safe over the upcoming months. Once you know what you’re looking for, staying safe on the beach becomes second nature.