WATCH: How to avoid danger when swimming in the sea
PUBLISHED: 17:30 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:30 24 August 2018
On a warm summer's day, there is nothing many children and their families like better than to have a bit of a splash about in the sea.
But with more people enjoying themselves on the beach comes a greater risk of getting into trouble.
So with a busy Bank Holiday weekend expected to bring thousands of people to our beaches, swimming instructors and lifeguards came together to teach children exactly how to stay safe while having fun - before it is too late.
Held in the wake of Ben Quartermaine’s tragic death in waters near to Clacton, the event - run by Swim England and the RNLI at Dovercourt Beach in Harwich on Friday, August 24 - was designed to show seven to 14-year-olds what to do if the worst happens.
Richard Wigley, RNLI spokesman for the Clacton area, said that although the skills many young people need for swimming in the sea are the same as a pool or lake, the conditions they are dealing with are wildly different.
“The skills are similar but it’s about being aware of the dangers, because they are quite a bit different,” he said.
“In a swimming pool, you don’t have the problems with tides. When you get rip currents that are quicker than an Olympic swimmer can swim, the average person won’t stand a chance.”
So what should people do if disaster strikes? Mr Wigley said: “The best thing to do is to fight your initial instinct and not fight the water.
“If you just float and gather your breath, then you can think.
“It’s the initial panic that actually causes the trouble - you’re inhaling and ingesting sea water, and you’re starting on your way to drowning.”
While there are greater numbers on the beach, Mr Wigley said lifeguards do not tend to see more accidents - although he said Ben Quartermaine’s death earlier this year had “heightened awareness” around sea safety.
“At this time of year, more people are taking to the water,” he said. “This is about ensuring children are confident in the water.”
Charlotte Francis, Swim Safe area coordinator for Harwich, said: “It’s been great to see hundreds of young people embracing our safety messages and learning vital new skills.
“Children love swimming outdoors but swimming in the sea, rivers or lakes is very different to swimming in a pool, where most children learn.
“Swim Safe is a free, fun activity that teaches kids lifelong skills that will help them enjoy open water safely.”