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‘Respect the water however experienced you are’ - says woman who has taken on some of world’s toughest swims

PUBLISHED: 12:23 10 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:44 10 August 2020

Open-water swimmer Tracy Clark has shared her top tips to stay safe in the water.   Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Open-water swimmer Tracy Clark has shared her top tips to stay safe in the water. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2016

Everyone needs to respect the water, regardless of how experienced they are.

That’s the message from Tracy Clark of Thorpe St Andrew, who has taken on some of the world’s toughest open-water swims.

Ms Clark’s safety message follows a fatal weekend in Norfolk waters, when a man in his 20s died at the lakes at Bawsey Pits, and a woman in her 30s died on the coast at Waxham.

Ms Clark, 50, said one of the main things to bear in mind was the temperature of the water.

She said: “The water off the coast in Norfolk is around 18C, which to most people is still quite cold, compared to a swimming pool which is around 28C. It’s easy to underestimate how draining that cold can be on the body.”

Tracy Clark swimming at Sea Palling beach. Picture: MARK BULLIMORETracy Clark swimming at Sea Palling beach. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Ms Clark said Norfolk’s tides could also be quite strong.

She said: “There is a lot of water either filling up or emptying out, and people don’t realise the strength of that. The other thing is the rip. They are more visible when the water is rough, but when the water’s calm, that’s usually a sign that there’s a rip there.”

MORE: Woman dies after emergency services called out to reports of seven in water on Norfolk coast

Ms Clark, who regularly swims at Sea Palling, has completed gruelling swimming challenges including an Ice Mile in 3.6 degree water, the English Channel, the Strait of Gibraltar, Catalina Channel in California and around Manhattan Island.

She said people should swim with someone else whenever they could.

Tracy Clark with other open-water swimmers. One of her top pieces of advice is never to swim in the sea alone. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMORETracy Clark with other open-water swimmers. One of her top pieces of advice is never to swim in the sea alone. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Ms Clark said: “Never swim alone and swim on a guarded beach if you’re not a strong swimmer. You should also avoid setting a time limit on how long you’re going to be in the water, and if it’s your first time swimming in the sea this summer, definitely don’t stay in for too long.”

Ms Clark said swimmers should watch out for signs of hypothermia, which happens when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat.

She said: “You can start to feel drained, almost groggy. Your arms can start to feel a bit warm, and the strength can drain out of your arms and legs. If you feel that you should immediately get out and tell somebody. There’s something called an ‘after drop’ which is when your core temperature will continue to drop after you get out of the water.”

Top five water safety tips from the Royal Lifesaving Society UK:

How a rip current happens. Image: ArchantHow a rip current happens. Image: Archant

1. Look out for lifeguards

If you’re looking for a place to cool off always find a lifeguarded swimming site.

2. It’s colder than it looks

Water at open water and inland sites is often much colder than it looks, cold water can affect your ability to swim and self-rescue.

3. Don’t go too far

Always swim parallel to the shore, that way you’re never too far away from it.

4. It’s stronger than it looks

Currents in the water can be very strong. If you find yourself caught in a riptide – don’t swim against it – you’ll tire yourself out. Swim with the current and call for help.

5. Bring a friend

Always bring a friend when you go swimming so if anything goes wrong you’ve got someone there to help.


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