Sea Safety

Wild Sea Women Cold Water Exposure Safety Tips

  • Never dip alone
  • Always have a tow float and your mobile phone with you in a waterproof cover
  • Check tide times using My Tide Times App. The water is moving at its slowest an hour before and an hour after high tide and low tide. Also note that high tides will be higher and low tides will be lower on a full and new Moon due to the gravitational pull.
  • Check wave height for your local beach using Magic Seaweed App (only available to check this information at surf beaches)
  • Check for rips and also be aware that rip tides tend to have a stronger pull at low tide
  • If caught in a rip, remember not to swim against it, instead swim parallel to the shore at a slight angle heading back into shore
  • if you’re new to dipping, build up your cold exposure time gradually, it’s advised to not stay in for longer than 1-3mins (you get all of the benefits of cold water therapy in just 3 mins)
  • Condition your body to the cold by taking a daily cold shower – end your regular warm shower with a 30-60 second blast of cold
  • if it’s safe to do so, walk into the water slowly, give your face a splash and walk out no further than the thighs and dip to just past the shoulders. Breathe, focusing on longer exhalations



Coming out

Although you may feel warm in the water and may also feel warm for the first few mins when coming out of the water, the cold will hit you around 5-10 mins later as the bodies core temp begins to drop.

  • Warm up slowly; squats or horse stance are great warm up exercises (no cardio)
  • Apply plenty of layers of loose clothing and a warm hat (it’s also a good idea to wear a warm hat and or swim cap while in the sea)
  • Drink something warm and sugary – AVOID CAFFEINE & ALCOHOL
  • If you still feel cold, then put a hot water bottle under each armpit
  • Although it can be tempting, avoid taking a warm shower or bath after cold exposure
  • Warm up with the power of the breath – see video below

Cold water shock

The effect on the body of entering water 15°C and below is often underestimated. This shock can be the precursor to drowning.

What’s the risk?

Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement, so the risk is significant most of the year.

Average UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C. Rivers such as the Thames are colder – even in the summer.

What happens?

Cold water shock causes the blood vessels in the skin to close, which increases the resistance of blood flow. Heart rate is also increased. As a result the heart has to work harder and your blood pressure goes up. Cold water shock can therefore cause heart attacks, even in the relatively young and healthy.

The sudden cooling of the skin by cold water also causes an involuntary gasp for breath. Breathing rates can change uncontrollably, sometimes increasing as much as tenfold. All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic, increasing the chance of inhaling water directly into the lungs.

This can all happen very quickly: it only takes half a pint of sea water to enter the lungs for a fully grown man to start drowning. You could die if you don’t get medical care immediately.

How can you minimise the risk?

If you enter the water unexpectedly:

  • Take a minute. The initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away.
  • Relax and float on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float.
  • Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.

If you’re planning on enjoying the water:

  • Check conditions – including water temperature – before heading to the coast. Visit for full surf reports in the UK and Ireland.
  • Wear a wetsuit of appropriate thickness for the amount of time you plan to spend in the water and the type of activity you’re doing, if entering.
  • Wear a flotation device. It greatly increases your chances of making it through the initial shock. See our guidance on lifejackets and buoyancy aids (PDF 3.3MB).

Our seas and rivers are cold enough to leave you helpless in seconds. Treat water with respect, not everyone can be saved.

You can read the original RNLI Article here

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