Swim Safe in St Ives: Summer Water Safety for Kids in Cornwall

9th August 2019

If your kids love splashing about in the sea, have you thought about sending them for a sea safety lesson? It’s fun, it’s free, and it’ll help to keep your kids safe this summer.


The RNLI and Swim England have teamed up to provide a programme of Swim Safe sessions for children aged 7-14. These hour-long sessions are held on beaches across the country, and are designed to help kids stay safe in the sea. We send our children off to the St Ives sessions at the start of every summer – and they absolutely love them. They even get a free T-shirt!



St Ives Swim Safe Sessions

St Ives Swim Safe lessons take place on Porthmeor Beach on Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer holidays. Parents or carers are asked to stay on site to watch – and let’s face it, Porthmeor Beach beats sitting on the swimming pool balcony.

You’ll need to choose and book a time slot (there’s no drop-in option), then register with Swim Safe. Before the session, you’ll be emailed a short questionnaire for your young swimmer to complete, based on their existing knowledge of water safety.

You can book a Swim Safe session in any of their locations. You don’t have to be local to book a St Ives session, which is how we can promote it to our guests at Polmanter. We were chatting to a lady from Plymouth who comes down to Cornwall every summer, and kicks off each holiday by sending her kids on a Swim Safe session. They’re then set up for a summer of beach-based fun.


Beach Safety For Families

There are also a few simple steps we can all take towards safe summer swimming:

  • Choose a lifeguarded beach in the summer (more about this in a minute)
  • Know your beach safety flags (ditto)
  • We really recommend reading the Respect The Water campaign from the RNLI (your kids will cover this on their Swim Safe course)
  • Know your own abilities, and stick well within them – the sea is more tiring to swim in than the pool
  • Keep an eye on the weather and the tides, and ideally, plan your day around them
  • Learn how to spot – and so avoid – a rip current. The RNLI has an excellent little film about rip currents. If you’re not sure, chat to the lifeguard on the beach.
  • Wear the right kit. Wetties for extended times in the sea, and a pair of swim shoes are essential kit for kids. (And the usual suitcase-size load of sunblock, shades, hats, drinking water, swim nappies, dry clothes, towels etc etc)


Lifeguarded Beaches in West Cornwall

Here are some of our favourite lifeguarded beaches in West Cornwall:

  • Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
  • Porthminster Beach, St Ives
  • Carbis Bay beach, near St Ives
  • Hayle Towans and Gwithian, Hayle
  • Marazion and Long Rock
  • Porthcurno
  • Sennen

But please be aware, this is during the summer months only, and the lifeguards tend to go off duty around tea time.

Watch Out For Flags

Do you know what the beach flags mean? (Don’t worry – many of us have to Google them each summer!) The children are taught this on the Swim Safe course, but for the rest of us, here’s a brief guide:

  • Red and yellow flags: lifeguarded area, marked by a flag at either end. This is the safest area to swim, splash and body board, or use inflatables.
  • Black and white chequered flags: this is the area for non-powered crafts (surf boards, SUPs, kayaks and so on) and the launch area for kite and wind surfing. Don’t swim in this area.
  • Red flag: danger! Don’t enter the water.
  • Orange windsock: strong winds. Don’t use inflatables, and be very cautious.
  • Red and white prohibition sign: this means an area is always unsuitable for swimming and other aquatic activities. Never enter this water.


The Inflatable Debate

Who doesn’t love an inflatable unicorn? The RNLI’s flag systems take into account the recent fashion for inflatable llamas, flamingos and swans; however, many parents prefer to keep these out of the sea under any circumstances.

We recommend Penzance’s Jubilee Pool as a great venue for your inflatable creatures. The lido is large enough so you don’t jostle other swimmers, and of course, it’s enclosed.

Source: Greg Martin Photojournalist


Beach Homework for Parents

A quick bit of post-beach research can really help.

Always check tide times before packing up your beach bag. You could end up with too little (or too much) sand; and some beaches or parts of beaches can even get cut off by the tide.

Check the weather. You don’t want to spend the day dodging the drizzle in your beach tent. The sea could range from uninviting to simply too risky on windy days.

The weather on the coast can change, fast. If there’s a weather warning, don’t assume the Met’s made a mistake when you wake to glorious sunshine.

If you’re not sure, switch your beach trip to another day. If you’re staying with us at Polmanter, there’s the swimming pool for outdoor splashy fun, or you could head for the lidos at Penzance or Hayle. If they really want waves, try Ships & Castles in Falmouth!


If you’d like to know more about Swim Safe or our local beaches, please just ask us. Like most St Ives families, we love the sea, and spend as much time as possible in and around the water.