Archive for the ‘lifesaving’ Category


Belfast Live reports: A programme which aims to teach kids how to stay safe in open water is hosting free swimming lessons in Northern Ireland this summer.

Swim Safe, is coming to NI for the first time this summer to host free hour-long sessions for 7–14 year olds run by qualified swimming teachers and RNLI beach lifeguards, supported by a team of trained volunteers.

The sessions are designed to be practical, interactive, educational and fun for children who can swim at least 25 metres.

Every child that participates will receive 60 minutes of tuition, with the time split between land-based safety with a lifeguard and in-water tuition with a swimming teacher.

Wetsuits, swimming hats and a free goody bag with T-shirt are all provided.

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Jenny Thompson said: “Many children love swimming outdoors – but swimming in the sea, rivers and lakes is different to swimming in a pool and can often be much more challenging.

“The Swim Safe programme gives children the opportunity to learn about keeping safe when swimming outdoors and knowing what to do if they get into trouble.”

Visit the SwimSafe website to book your place and for more information.

Chris Ayriss comments: What a contrast this piratical program is to the warnings broadcast in 2014 “Don’t go in!”



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The BBC reports: Students applying to one of China’s most prestigious universities have been told they must learn to swim before they graduate.

Tsinghua University, known as the Harvard of the East, has ruled that the nation’s top minds must also prove themselves in the pool.

The news made waves on Chinese social media, with some questioning the move in a country struggling with drought.

But the university said swimming was a key survival skill.

President of Tsinghua University, Qiu Yong, said the exercise was made compulsory for all students because it also improved physical fitness.

One of China’s most highly regarded institutions, Tsinghua University first made swimming a requirement in 1919, but it was later dropped due to the university’s popularity and a lack of swimming pools in Beijing.

However, under the rules announced on Monday, new students beginning in September will have to take the plunge and demonstrate that they can swim at least 50m (164ft) using any stroke.

‘Arbitrary rules’

The announcement has been hotly debated on social media, with some questioning whether it is reasonable to expect those who grew up in inland cities to learn how to swim as adults.

“What happens to students from arid places that have no seaside or rivers?” wrote Yixunsangyao.

Another commenter, Xishuoge, wrote: “Even though it is a ‘famous university’, it shouldn’t make up arbitrary rules, as such rules could snuff out talents.”

Others, such as Shin-ssi, praised the university for promoting a “necessary skill which can save lives”, adding: “It’s a good thing for the university to emphasise this.”

Those who appeared pleased with their own abilities to swim, made light of the announcement, asking if they could enrol as students at Tsinghua University.


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Taken from – “Scouting for Boys” by Robert Baden-Powell 34th edition 1932 (246-7)

Scouting For Boys Baden-PowellThe list of boy scout heroes shows you what a large proportion of accidents are due to not knowing how to swim. It is therefore most important that everybody should learn to swim, and, having done so, to learn how to save others from drowning.

A great Channel swimmer, writing in “The Boys Own Paper”, pointed out that a boy, when learning to swim, should learn first how to get in and out of a boat, i.e., by climbing over the stern. Secondly, how to support himself on an oar of plank, i.e., by riding astride on it, or by catching hold of one end, and pushing it before him and swimming with his legs. Thirdly, how to get into a floating lifebuoy, i.e., by shoving the nearest side of it down under water and capsizing it over his head and shoulders, so that he is inside it when it floats. Fourthly, how to save a life.

A moderate swimmer can save the life of a drowning man if he knows how, and has practiced a few times with his friends.

The popular idea that a drowning person rises three times before he finally sinks is all nonsense. He may drown at once, unless someone is quick to help him.

The important point is not to let the drowning person catch hold of you when you get to him, or he may drown you too. Keep behind him always.

Put an arm across his chest and your hand under his armpit, telling him to keep quiet and not to struggle. If he obeys, you can easily keep him afloat. But otherwise be careful that in his terror he does not turn over and catch hold of you. If he should seize you by the neck place your arm around his waist, and the other hand, palm upwards, under his chin, with your finger-tips under his nose. Pull and push,and he must let go. If you find yourself clutched by the wrist, turn your wrist against his thumb and force yourself free. But you will never remember this unless you practice it frequently with other boys first, each taking turns in being the drowning man or the rescuer.

Learn to swim Tommy the Tenderfoot

Any of you that cannot swim as yet, and who fall into water out of your depth, remember that you need not sink if you take care to do the following things. First, keep your mouth upwards by throwing your head well back. Secondly, keep your lungs full of air by taking in long breaths, but breath out very little. Thirdly, keep your arms underwater. To do this you should not begin to shout, which will only empty your lungs, and you should not throw your arms about or beckon for help, because this will make you sink.

If you see a person fall into the water and begin to drown, and you yourself are unable to swim, throw a rope, or an oar or a plank right to him, so that he may clutch it and hold it. If a person falls through ice, and is unable to get out again because the edges are breaking, throw him a rope and tell him not to struggle.This may give him confidence until you can get a long ladder or pole across the hole,which will enable him to crawl out, or allow you to crawl out to catch hold of him.

It’s hard to believe that we have turned our back on educating youngsters to swim and save lives in the water. Attitudes need to change, and they should be changed because swimming is the delight of life!

See also:

Could Health and Safety be Drowning Us by Accident?

From Lifesaving Education to none at all!

“Disappointed and Very Concerned” says Jennie Price of Sport England as swimming drops by 9%

The Evolution of British Swimming

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Certainly not the idea, the Health and safety ethos protects us from many unnecessary risks; it has saved lives and prevented countless accidents.

But is it working in the swimming environment?

In many ways yes, thinking about potential risks and finding ways to negate them makes organised swims safer and builds confidence in those who allow swimmers to take to their waterways.

It’s doesn’t work when risks are perceived incorrectly.

No Swimming Castle Gardens Leicester

The Royal Life Saving Society is commendably committed to reducing open water drownings. Yet despite outdoor swimmers being ranked as a low risk group, its public message to date has been crystal clear. “Don’t get in, you might not get out.” So convincing has been the message theirs no wonder that local authorities and water companies are reluctant to open up inland beaches and bathing places for swimming, despite encouragement and guidance from members of the Outdoor Swimming Society, because to do so would seem to fly in the face of reason.

Swim indoors

The UK swim indoors policy does not sit well with the wild swimming movement and so we find ourselves at loggerheads when trying to balance safety with leisure outdoor swimming. Triathlon events are encouraged and their is of cause some overlap with leisure swimmers taking to lakes in which more serious swimmers are training, but what about children, families and casual swimmers?

Because we have held the door closed on outdoor swimming for so long, perhaps we need to look beyond our shores for inspiration.

Stamford Meadows Bathing Place

The Cootamundra Herald published an article this week that makes interesting reading:

“LOCAL swim instructors have been taking primary school students through their paces, building their confidence, swimming ability and learning water safety strategies at the Cootamundra Heated Pool.

… the 10 day intensive water safety course is aimed to equip children with essential skills. Each day instructors deliver a new safety message, and then they teach survival sequences in the pool. 

… School principal Bill Godman says that being able to swim is an essential life skill. “The Australian outdoor lifestyle demands that we have those skill-sets to enable us to go swimming in the beach, swimming in the river and swimming in the backyard pool,”

it’s imperative the children learn to swim without goggles so they have confidence to stay afloat in a dangerous situation.

…some parents are concerned that we are asking the children to swim with their goggles off but if you associate being able to swim with wearing goggles, you won’t be able to swim without them,” Mrs Baldry said. …if they fall into a small body of water they wouldn’t have goggles on.”

“In this course we ask them keep their head out of the water anyway; students are treading water, floating on their back, and practicing survival backstroke.” 

Now can we learn anything from down under?

Just this week, Prince Charles has voiced his concern that people’s connection with the countryside is dying. Yet wild swimmers are connecting with the countryside, using village pubs and restaurants whilst promoting countryside tourism. The problem is that many of the British population are ill equipped for outdoor living. Anglers, walkers, cyclists and boaters are all attracted to our beautiful landscape but have little understanding when it comes to open water swimming and survival. Children and teenagers are especially at risk because of their affinity with and fascination for water.

With 1,300 primary schools not bothering to offer swimming lessons despite its compulsory listing in the National Curriculum, and with a less than a 50/50 chance of learning to swim in primary schools that do bother, you can see that much of the blame rests in a lack of education.

Some parents take matters into their own hands and pay for private swimming lessons but even then think, what happens at the end of the course? Either the pupil does well and takes up competitive swimming as part of a club, or if he has no interest in competition swimming as happens in most cases he stops swimming altogether.

Diving facilities are few and far between, leisure pools are designed for non swimmers, their are too few outdoor swimming opportunities inland and so our newly qualified swimmer has little opportunity or desire to practice his swimming ability.


Leisure swimming is not classified as sport and so it attracts little interest or funding. Despite this it is the only way to practice and polish a life saving skill once learned, which in my view makes it even more important than competition swimming, especially when we remember that swimming is primarily a life saving skill. We need outdoor swimming opportunities to flourish if we are going to reduce open water drowning.

Drowning statistics reveal that many of those that drown in open water were thought to be competent swimmers, at least they could swim well at the indoor pool. But when you investigate a little further you discover that such drownings are not surprising. Those whose only experience of swimming is restricted to warm water swimming pools, wearing goggles and then only in appropriate dress, find themselves in difficulty when they end up in cold water unexpectedly. Many find the shock of the cold inhibits rational thought and they flounder. Others find that they simply cannot stay afloat, let alone swim, when fully clothed. A lack of knowledge results in many a desperate struggle against river flows or rip currents in the sea which could safely be navigated if experience and knowledge had been gained beforehand. Our expectations for schoolchildren are so low that the swimming skills they master prove far from life saving.

The Way Forward

The ASA list of outdoor bathing places may have become a thing of the past, but it is hoped that this may soon change as they reconsider their role in promoting leisure swimming outdoors.


The idea that outdoor swimming is inherently dangerous and very risky may have been accepted up to this point. But with the growth of the wild swimming movement, the example of our European neighbors, the rise in competitive outdoor swimming and the voices of outdoor swimmers and regular features in The Guardian; the Health and Safety machine is having its dials reset, and we can look to the future with hope.


It will take a long time to turn the tide on prejudice, but I have lived in the multicultural city of Leicester all my life. The indigenous people have come to accept and love the newcomers from abroad that now make up the majority of its inhabitants. It has taken time, but with communication comes understanding and eventually tolerance and acceptance.

Head Weir, Open Air Bathing Place Exeter

Rather than trying to tame the wild swimmer, the tide is now turning towards respect and tolerance. The idea that all outdoor swimming is dangerous is standing in the way of clear lifesaving education. Schools need to focus their attention not on abstinence but on life saving skill. We teach cycling proficiency on the road for good reason; why then don’t we teach life saving skills in open water?

Because the Health and Safety ethos at this present time rules it out.


The Health and Safety message needs to change because it moves us to ignore the real problem. If we tell people never to go into the water we can hardly give advice as to how to survive if they do. We don’t really need to teach children how to swim if their never going to go in! But despite all the advice and good intentions some children will go in. To escape the heat and cool off, because of a persuasive friend, for a dare or to show off, whatever it is they will go in, but because of a lack of education they might not get out! We need to engage teenagers with a challenging and fulfilling swimming experience. We need to bring back diving boards, inland beaches and river bathing places.


Changes are afoot. The Royal Life Saving Society are reconsidering their message and refocusing on education.

The current Health and Safety advice could well be contributing to needless drownings.

Knowledge empowers.

Education saves lives!

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Lifesaving education not taken seriously!

Outdoor swimming is something of a culture shock to many of the British population.

We as a nation have become so used to swimming indoors, so indoctrinated by our health and safety culture that the sight of liberated swimmers escaping to the wild seems inherently worrying to many.

For decades, a clear warning has been sounded to stay out of open water and to swim only at the indoor pool. But prior to this modern development, the freedom to swim outside was seen as everyone’s birthright.

Baden-Powell saw to it that Scouts were trained to be capable swimmers and lifesavers. Swimmers took responsibility for themselves and others and youngsters were trained to be Water Wise.

All this education had very positive results as the following exert from Hung Out to Dry reveals:

Philip Mead aged twelve, a pupil at East Lane council school succeeded in saving George Rowden, aged fourteen, from drowning in the Thames on June 1st 1910. The boy Rowden was swimming at the foot of East Lane stairs when he became exhausted and was carried out by the tide. The exhaustion was partly due to the strong tide and partly to his getting into the wash of a passing steamer. Philip Mead went to the lad’s assistance and succeeded in bringing him to the side. The water where the rescue was effected was twelve feet deep and a water man states: “That but for Mead’s timely aid, Rowden must have been drowned.”’

East Lane Stairs Lonson

On a recent visit to London to attend the Urban Plunge exhibition, my son and I visited the location of this life saving rescue. East Lane Stairs are now out of bounds to the general public as is the beach and the London Thames when it comes to swimming.

I wonder how many 12 year old’s today would feel confident swimming in a major river, let alone be able to proficiently aid someone in difficulties and effect their rescue?

No Swimming Abbey Park Leicester

The answer would vary from country to country but in England we have successfully deterred the majority from swimming outdoors. So forceful has been the message that we have thrown out the baby with the bath water and turned our back on mass education in water safety in favor of a blanket ban on outdoor swimming. What have been the results of this initiative?

No Swimming Braunstone Park Leicester

There are an abundance of no swimming signs dotted along many river banks and lake-sides and the press chant their mantra “stay out of the water” on hot sunny days. But this does little to help the hapless angler’s, walker’s, cyclists and motorists that ends up in open water by accident; it doesn’t save their lives.

No Bathing Abbey Park Leicester

We have become so blasé about education that 1,300 primary schools don’t even bother to offer the most basic of swimming lessons, despite its compulsory listing in the National Curriculum. Those schools that make a token stab at the subject fail to produce the goods as almost half of primary school children are dispatched as seniors unable to swim a single length (25M) unaided.

No Swimming Cropston Leicester

The failing education system is symptomatic of a society that fails to take swimming seriously.

No Swimming Castle Gardens Leicester

ASA acting chief executive, Ashley Beaveridge reminds us: “Swimming isn’t just a leisure activity or a way for young people to keep healthy, it’s a life-saving skill that every child has the right to learn.”

Compare British attitudes discussed here to those found in Switzerland by watching the short film below.

Discover more about the outdoor swimmers journey from fresh air and sunshine to indoor confinement at Hung Out to Dry!


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In the UK we have our own ideas when it comes to right and wrong and public safety. Separated by a wide expanse of water from our American cousins and a much narrower channel from our European partners, our Island mentality is costing lives. In America and Europe outdoor swimming is the expected norm. Summer is a happy time of playful water fun but American and European attitudes seem to have no place here.

Britain once led the world into a new association with water. Mass education of school children in the art of swimming reduced drownings and increased the quality of people’s lives. But today in an effort to be politically correct and not to offend anyone, serious flaws in our education system are accepted and sustained.

Learning to swim - once a British Obsession

Watch this short 1973 public information film and análise your feelings about the message it contains:

The message in this video may seem unacceptable today. Now everyone’s a winner, theirs no wrong answer and no one is to be excluded. But these ideals do not work in an aquatic setting; they don’t work in the real world. Education is the key element of water safety and survival.

People don’t live in ignorance, they die in ignorance.

It may not be PC to mention that a drowning victim couldn’t swim or that his lack of education or ability in swimming outdoors cost him his life (yes, it is usually males that drown) but it’s the truth.

Wild Swimming Can Save Your Life

Wild Swimming Can Save Your Child’s Life

I look back on my childhood with fond memory’s, watching Tarzan swim and fight off crocodiles and Tom Sawyer and his friends rope swinging into the Mississippi. I read about Swallows and Amazons where unsupervised bathing was part of a wonderful summer. And I remember fathers words: “Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won’t drown.”  It might not be PC to say that the nations children are “duffers” but if they weren’t aquatic “duffers” they wouldn’t drown!

Knowing where and how to “swim safe” is essential and telling adults and children not to go in swimming is just not working.

In a country that recommends higher education to even the least able, we are sadly lacking when it comes to our understanding of a child’s fascination with water.

Despite warnings to keep out and stay away, children instinctively know that plunging into cool refreshing water on a hot sultry day is going to be just delightful. Our European partners and our American cousins recognize this fact and until we do the same needless drownings will sadly be a constant feature of our increasingly hot summers.

The good news is that something can be done! Swimming can be once more celebrated rather than marginalized. As an outdoor swimmer I’m fed up with being Hung Out to Dry. I want to go in swimming; to protect youngsters through education, and see news reports expose the truth, the tragedy of drowning is not that someone went into a river at a beautiful location but rather that a lack of understanding on the part of the non swimmer cost him his life.

An ancient Romans proverbs stated: “An ignorant man neither knows how to read nor to swim.”

“Ignorant” men and boys will continue to drown until they are educated out of ignorance.

If not duffers, won’t drown!”

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This is the question I asked and I believe I have found the answer in Switzerland…



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