RNLI Community Safety Team Keep Their Open Water Swimming Updated Refreshed Via Their On-Line Training Programme

On Monday evening (8th February 2021), our RNLI Community Safety Team continued Project Gnosis* and undertook a very interesting and informative on-line awareness session concerning open water swimming delivered by team member Dave Bennett who is also an RNLI lifeguard and Chairman of Broadstairs Surf Lifesaving Club.

Our team are very fortunate to have subject matter experts in their ranks in a range of water related activity areas who can bring extra skills and knowledge to help enhance water safety and drowning prevention along the Thanet coastline.  The team led awareness sessions are inaddition to an on-line training package delivered and planned by water safety colleagues at RNLI HQ covering a wide covering a wide range of specialist topics and skill areas which we are hugely looking forward to.

*Project Gnosis is the teams strategic effort to maintain volunteer engagement, cohesion, knowledge and skillset updates throughout the national COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

Popularity & Engagement

The popularity of open water swimming has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns due to the closure of swimming pools in some parts of the country, the increase in the number of people having to take ‘stay vacations’ in the UK and the much acclaimed health and associated psychological benefits.

The last statistics from Swim England suggest that 4.3 million people are engaged in open water swimming during 2017/18.  Winter swimming has indeed boomed with the Outdoor Swimming magazine indicating that 75% of those surveyed said that they will continue to swim throughout the winter.  There has also been a good number of swimmers carrying on into the winter time locally.

Standard Issues For People In The Water

During the presentation the following areas were discussed which are standard issues for people in the water:

  • entry & egress
  • currents, tides and rips
  • other water users and lack of visibility of swimmers
  • current health issues
  • rescues – hard to see and time limited
  • swimming induced pulmonary oedema

The presentation then focused on: the differences between open water swimming and pool swimming; summer v’s winter swimming, cold water shock, swim failure, the ideal open water swimmer, hypothermia and hyperthermia; wetsuits, the ‘afterdrop’ (post immersion cooling contines after removal from water), autonomous conflict – dive response v cold water shock, swimming induced pulmonary oedema (SIPE), peripheral nerve/vascular damage, the benefits of open water swimming and what advice should be given by RNLI CS teams.

Professor Mike Tipton & Dr Heather Massey – Portsmouth University

If you are into your open water swimming then you will have no doubt come across Mike Tipton MBE who is a Professor of Human and Applied Physiology at Portsmouth University. The webinair below which was delivered by Prof Mike Tipton and Dr Heather Massey also a member of the Portsmouth University Applied Physiology department; is very informative and definitely worth your time watching.

There is a whole host of professionally produced video’s and webinairs  from registered Royal Lifesaving Society UK and Surf Lifesaving Society of Great Britain groups online which are free to access and easy to dip into if you have time.

Take Home Open Water Swimming Messages

Before you take up open water swimming or perhaps re-start after time away here’s some ‘take home’ safety tips from Prof Mike Tipton:

  • Get a medical check-up
  • swim with a club, supervised locations or experienced other swimmers
  • habituate to cold water
  • enter the water slowly
  • avoid face immersion and breath holding
  • wear a brightly coloured hat (orange coloured), wetsuit and swim float
  • don’t feel pressurised to go in, or not to wear a wetsuit
  • check weather and tides, keep an eye out for rips and currents
  • stay within your depth
  • limit yourself to a maximum of 10 minutes
  • don’t trust how you feel if you ‘feel ok’
  • rewarm thoroughly before doing other things
  • enjoy
What do you do if you have further questions?

If you have any questions relating to open water swimming and or other water activity then pleae get in touch by dropping our team a direct message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Thank you for reading and stay safe.

Other useful links


Surf Lifesaving GB

RNLI Open Water Swimming tips and guidance

Thanet RNLI Community Safety – open water swimming safety tips

Sign-up to our lifesaving RNLI Community Safety Team newsletter

Thanet Lifeguard Club



HM Coastguard


Surf Lifesaving GB

Dave Bennett – Broadstairs Surf Lifesaving Club

Prof Mike Tipton

University of Portsmouth