Toggle menu

Enjoy swimming safely as we welcome the holiday season

3 April 2023

Salcombe waters

Safe swimming at Salcombe, and around South Hams beaches, is a key message for South Hams District Council, as the weather begins to warm up and the busy holiday season gets underway.

Most people head out to enjoy a dip in the sea, especially when the weather starts to warm up and the water laps invitingly against the shoreline. This holiday period, South Hams District Council is urging all water-users, whether weekend bathers, paddle boarders, boat users or intrepid wild sea swimmers, to be safe and visible. 

The majority of swimmers stay on lifeguarded beaches, between red and yellow flags, but where do you swim when there aren't lifeguards nearby? 

The Salcombe Harbour Master strongly advises swimmers to swim where boats are expecting you to be, and never, ever, in the boating channels. This means, you cannot swim across the estuary, from one side to the other. He stresses that it is exceptionally dangerous, and you are endangering your life and that of other people by doing so. 

To those swimming in the River Avon, particularly between Aveton Gifford and Bantham, the Council ask you to take extra care to be seen. Swimmers often do not realise how very difficult they are to spot from a boat, and it can be really dangerous when there are a lot of craft out on the river.

Swimmers are at great risk from boats and jet skis if swimming in open water without any visibility aids. Rather than swimming alone, enthusiasts might be interested in the many organised swim groups within local communities.

Wherever swimming or enjoying water sports this holiday season, please take care:  

The RNLI's key safety advice for taking a dip is:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.
  • Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks.
  • Keep a close eye on your family - on the beach and in the water - don't allow your family to swim alone.
  • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float.
  • If in doubt, stay out - there is always another day to go for a swim.
  • Take plenty of warm clothes for before and after your dip, along with a hot drink to help you warm up again when you come out of the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering cold water shock.
  • Be seen - wear a brightly coloured swim cap and consider using a tow float.
  • Acclimatise to the water temperature slowly - never jump straight in
  • Stay in your depth and know your limits.
  • If you get into trouble, remember FLOAT to live by leaning back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing.
  • Take a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch.
  • If you or someone else is in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard. 

Cameron Sims-Stirling, Salcombe Harbour Master, said: "We understand that water activities are always a popular choice across South Hams, especially as the weather warms up and school holidays begin. Families should keep a very careful eye on children and leave any inflatables at home. 

"There is an ever-increasing number of those who use the water, not just for swimming, but for water sports such as paddleboarding, surfing, canoeing, kite surfing and boating.  Everyone on the water should take extra care, have the correct equipment and keep an eye on the sea conditions. 

"Those on the water should beware of rip tides and follow the RNLI's advice of remaining calm. If you find yourself pulled out to sea, relax as much as you possibly can and do not fight against the current. When you are no longer being pulled out to sea, and if you can stand, wade back towards the shore. If the water is still too deep to stand, swim parallel back to the shore. You can also raise your hand and shout for help to quickly raise the alarm. Please also make sure you acclimatise to the water's temperature slowly, never jump straight in.

"As the busy season approaches, and we welcome tourists to the area, it is important that we remain sensible and respect the water in order to avoid any emergency scenarios. When visiting any harbour, always check for local restrictions and byelaws regarding use of the water. With the right precautions, we can all safely enjoy the beautiful coastline here in South Hams."

You can find more information on beach safety and how to enjoy cold water swimming at the RNLI website here:

Share this page

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email