Out of my Depth

Izzy Ellis encourages one and all to head to the Woodlane bake sale this Thursday to raise money for the RNLI, following the incident on Holywell Bay a couple of weeks ago.

On Sunday 21 February I was involved in a sea rescue that took place on Holywell Bay on the North coast of Cornwall.The Beach Clean Society had planned a one off trip to Holywell, to clean the beach, followed by hot drinks and a BBQ. A small group of us who swim regularly with the Sea Swimming Club decided to go for a dip while the food cooked, but it took a nightmare turn when we got caught in a rip current whilst we were swimming.

There were five of us that had decided to swim, three managed to swim back to shore,
one with the help of a local who, watching on the beach, stripped down to his boxers and went into the water to help the swimmer back onto the shore. Once safely back to shore he left quietly. Another swimmer was able to swim back to shore, he raised the alarm before getting back into the sea with a lifebuoy to help me and the other swimmer in the water.

At this point the waves were crashing down over my head and pulling my body under the water, I was trying to take deep breaths but the panic that had seized me made my chest tight and I was struggling to keep my head above the water. I was disorientated and in shock, trying to swim back towards the shore, but no matter how hard I swam I couldn’t get any further than the point where the waves break, the rip current kept on sweeping me back again.

The thought of being rescued hadn’t crossed my mind. But both me and the other swimmer managed to grab hold of the lifebuoy and then a helicopter came down close to the surface of the water and we were airlifted out by the coast guards. I remember collapsing on the floor of the helicopter, weak and exhausted but with a deep sense of relief.As the coastguards helped us out of the helicopter back into a beach hut, they told me how lucky I was. It was a narrow escape.

The next day the incident was breaking news, it was sixth most trending story on the BBC website. Since the incident my feelings have spanned from thankfulness through to guilt, shame and embarrassment.You can replay the incident in your head as much as you like, but it doesn’t change what actually happened.We should never have been swimming in those conditions, without a wetsuit, and it’s something you’re warned about all the time. But we were swimming as a group, the sea looked calm, it was a bright day and we’d only meant to stay in the shallows for about five minutes. It goes to show that this kind of incident can still happen when you least expect it. I’ve learnt a massive lesson from this experience, and I’d urge you to think before getting into the sea and always double check that the swimming conditions are safe with the coastguard.

If you ever do get into difficulties:
try to stay calm,  signal by waving your arms above your head and, if caught in a current, swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current.

As a result of this serious incident the Sea Swimming Club have reviewed their risk assessment and new safety precautions have been put in place. As an active member of the Sea Swimming Club this experience hasn’t put me off, I still love sea swimming, it’s just next time, no rescues.

Thank you to the coastguards and to all the heroes that day.

There will be a cake sale at Woodlane campus on Thursday (10th March) to raise money for the RNLI, so come and support us by eating some cake!!