Exmouth Christmas Day swim: ‘stay away from beach’ safety plea

Exmouth Christmas Day swimmers are urged to stay away from the beach this year, amid safety fears.

The safety plea comes from Exmouth Beach Rescue Club, which is calling for ‘common sense to prevail’.

The volunteer lifeguards, who annually patrol the festive dip, are staying away on December 25 in a bid to safeguard their members and families from the spread of coronavirus.

The volunteers are ‘actively discouraging’ people from meeting on the beach on Christmas Day, in a bid to keep people safe – and club members are also warning of the dangers of taking a dip alone in winter waters.

Nigel Snowshall, Exmouth Beach Rescue Club spokesman, said: “There is to be no organisation for a Christmas Day Swim at Exmouth this year and people should not attend expecting the event to happen as usual.

“Exmouth Beach Rescue Club will not be in attendance at the beach on Christmas Day providing their usual voluntary patrol.

“We are disappointed at being unable to attend this year. However, many of our members – like most – have vulnerable family members, work colleagues or friends and it has been decided that the risks are too great and do not align to current ‘keep safe’ guidelines.

“Therefore, as a responsible safety organisation, we have taken the decision to lead by example.”

Mr Snowshall, an avid festive swimmer who began taking part in Exmouth’s Christmas swim in 1973, aged five-years-old, said he was disappointed not to be taking part in this year’s event, but called for perspective.

He said: “It’s not just about the participants, it’s the spectators – they’re shoulder-to shoulder. Obviously, it would be impossible to social distance.

“If I can give it up for one year there’s no reason why we all can’t, to keep everybody safe.

“It’s a swim, a social event. We all need to remember what’s important.”

He reminded anyone thinking about swimming in the sea on Christmas Day of the dangers of cold water.

Mr Snowshall urged anyone considering a festive dip to think of others – if they have to intervene and help amid the pandemic.

Mr Snowshall said if an incident occurred someone would have to put themselves at risk – from the sea and Covid-19 – to interact with the casualty.

He said: “The risks associated with sudden immersion in cold water, as happens at these events, can be severe

“Cold water shock, hypothermia and heart attack are all life-threatening and a real risk, and the lack of ‘on scene’ safety cover increases these risks.”

He added: “For those who rarely swim in the sea, especially those who only swim on Christmas Day, these risks cannot be overemphasised.”

Exmouth

Exmouth Beach Rescue Club – the volunteer lifeguards are safeguarding their members and families by staying away from the beach on December 25.
Archive photo: Exmouth Beach Rescue Club.

Exmouth Beach Rescue Club is warning sea swimmers to always check water and tidal conditions, go in company, wear appropriate clothing, enter the water slowly to acclimatise to the temperature and dry and dress immediately afterwards.

Mr Snowshall said: “If you see someone else in difficulty in the water, call 999, ask for the Coastguard. Do not enter the water.

“Have a wonderful festive period but please think of others and help to keep everyone safe this winter. That way we can all meet up as usual next year to enjoy our usual festive dip – hopefully.”

Exmouth’s Christmas Day swim started life with in the late 60s with just six swimmers when keen sportsman Ken Cunningham decided to take a dip on December 25.

He invited his friends, Peter Horne, Stan Jordan, Nick Hockings, David Hart and Miss Ireland to join him.

Since then, the swim has grown in popularity – although it has never been an organised event.

Last year the event attracted thousands of swimmers and spectators, who set off running into the sea at 11 o’clock.

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