Water safety campaign launched at a stormy Sea Palling

Rachel Seaman, Firefighter at Stalaham/Great Yamrouth and Michell Lowe, Watch Manager at Stalham at

Rachael Seaman, Firefighter at Stalaham/Great Yamrouth and Michell Lowe, Watch Manager at Stalham at the Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

A last-minute decision by two firefighters to not go swimming due to rough seas has highlighted the importance of water safety.

Michelle Lowe and Rachael Seaman were at Sea Palling beach as part of the launch of the Norfolk Water Safety Forum (NWSF).

The pair, who both work at Stalham Fire Station, have been immersing themselves in cold water every day for 31 days - but strong winds and high waves on Thursday (March 31) made the sea too dangerous for swimming.

Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman

Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Yet all was not lost.

Greg Preston, chairperson of the NWSF, said their decision illustrated the importance of being aware of your surroundings before taking to the water.

Greg Preston, Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service at the Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures

Greg Preston, Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service at the Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

"Rather than say don't go into open water, we want to remind people to practice safe open-water swimming," he said.

"We're blessed with waterways and the seaside in Norfolk and we would encourage them to swim safely."

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Mr Preston encouraged people interested in open-water swimming to join groups and to follow their safety guidance.

He also invited such groups to join NWSF - which is a multi-agency forum including the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, Coastguard, RNLI, Norfolk Police, the Broads Authority and the Boat Hire Federation.

Nick Ayers , RNLI, Water safety lead for North and East of England at the Water Safety Forum on Sea

Nick Ayers , RNLI, Water safety lead for North and East of England at the Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Nick Ayers, RNLI regional manager for water safety, said they chose Sea Palling to launch the forum as it is a "magnet for open water swimming and dipping".

Lockdowns over the past three years have contributed to an increase in popularity of both open-water swimming and stand-up paddleboarding.

He said that more people have taken to cold water swimming and dipping for the mental health benefits.

Rachel Seaman, Firefighter at Stalaham/Great Yamrouth and Michell Lowe, Watch Manager at Stalham at

Rachael Seaman, Firefighter at Stalaham/Great Yamrouth and Michell Lowe, Watch Manager at Stalham at the Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

There has also been a huge increase in paddleboarding across Norfolk, which can be enjoyed by people of all ages if done in a safe way, he said.

"Every activity has its own risks. We encourage people to sign up at an accredited venue to learn how to stand up on a paddleboard and to get the right training and equipment.

Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman

Water Safety Forum on Sea Palling beach. Pictures: Brittany Woodman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

He advised people to buy a buoyancy aid, always take your mobile phone in a waterproof pouch and tell somebody before you go.

From 2019 to 2021, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service have had 65 water rescue incidents, with 84 people being rescued by their crews.