RNLI reminds Christmas swimmers about cold water shock before they dive into festive dips

For thousands of people up and down the North East coast, a festive dip in the sea is part of a Christmas tradition.
Will you be taking part in a dip this Christmas?Will you be taking part in a dip this Christmas?
Will you be taking part in a dip this Christmas?

And ahead of planned dips on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day or New Year's Day across the region, the RNLI is issuing advice on cold water shock.

Nick Ayres, RNLI Community Safety Partner, said: ‘Many brave swimmers are planning to take the plunge with their families and friends over the holidays.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As the charity that saves lives at sea, we are here to make people aware of what do to if they or their fellow swimmers get into trouble.

Of course we want people to enjoy the water, but also remember it is winter when the sea is at its coldest!

Before going in, we urge people to remember the risks of cold water shock and what to do if it happens to them. The simple act of floating could save your life."

Advice from the RNLI is as follows:

*If you run straight into cold water you are more likely to suffer from cold water shock. The best way to avoid this is to wear a wetsuit. If this isn’t possible, walk into the sea slowly and stay shallow this will allow your body time to acclimatise gradually.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

*Cold water shock is a physiological response, which causes uncontrollable gasping. This increases the risk of you swallowing water and puts a strain on your heart- in extreme cases it can cause cardiac arrest. If you feel you this happening to you, fight your instinct to thrash around and swim hard, instead just lie back and float. The initial shock will pass within 60–90 seconds, and when you have regained control of your breathing, you can then try swimming to safety or calling for help. This skill will give you a far better chance of staying alive.

*If you see someone else in trouble in the water, fight the instinct to go in yourself. Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Respect the Water

The RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, aims to raise awareness of key hazards like cold water shock, and lifesaving skills like floating, to support the charity’s drive to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024.

Nick added: ‘There are many local dips taking place at the coast over Christmas.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We encourage those who plan on taking part to join a scheduled event, as they will be in good company with others swimmers, as well as safety staff."


The annual Boxing Day Dip takes place at 11am at Spittal Beach in aid of Mayoress' charities.

Newbiggin by the Sea

Newbiggin RNLI Lifeboat Station will be hosting this year's Boxing Day Dip in Newbiggin Bay at 11am to raise money for the RNLI station and volunteer crew.

Whitley Bay

The New Year’s Day Dip takes place at 11am at Whitey Bay Beach.


Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The annual Boxing Day Swim is organised by the North Sea Volunteer Lifeguards to raise funds for the club. It will take place at 11am from the club HQ on Tynemouth Longsands.

South Shields

The South Shields dip takes place at Little Haven beach in aid of St Clare’s Hospice at 12pm.


The Lions Club of Sunderland is hosting its annual Boxing Day Dip at Seaburn Beach. Those taking part will leave the Marriot Hotel at 11am to make their way to the beach.


The annual Seaham Boxing Day Dip is taking place at Seaham Harbour Marina at 11am.


The parade to the sea leaves at 11.30am from the Marine Hotel, Seaton Carew for the Hartlepool Round Table Boxing Day Dip.