Opinion: I love sea swimming but Winterton death is a wake-up call

Sea swimming at Scratby Beach in Norfolk

Liz Coates has embraced the joy of sea swimming. Although the circumstances are not known, the recent drowning of a woman at Winterton is a wake-up call to be safety aware, she says. - Credit: Liz Coates

Mercury reporter Liz Coates has found her happy place while wild swimming. But this week's tragic death of a swimmer at Winterton is a reminder of the dangers.

It's around 5pm on Sunday. It's hot and windy and the sand whips across the beach stinging my body.

The stones are hard on my feet and I dance over them like hot coals so as not to press down and jab my toes.

The water is brown and murky, but still it's a lovely feeling - first that slight chill and then the warmth of becoming accustomed to the temperature.

It's windy and the sea is choppy. Swimming south towards Caister it splashes in my face and I scrunch up my eyes.

Open water swimming at Horstead Mill

Reporter Liz Coates swimming in the Norfolk Broads at Horstead Mill. - Credit: <Liz Coates

It's lovely and I'm careful not to go out of my depth. I should say I'm not alone. My husband is with me having declared at first it looked 'horrible' and he wasn't coming in, but then changing his mind.

Nearby, a couple sit braced against the stinging sand, the woman pulling her sunhat closer around her head, bending the brim to shield her face.

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I note that if they came forward and sat on the stones they would not be blasted in this way - and be nearer to their two young children screaming at full volume on the shore as the waves crash and splash.

The beach at Winterton Norfolk

Winterton beach the day after a woman drowned after entering the water for a swim. - Credit: Liz Coates

Watching them sitting so far away I mused that they probably didn't appreciate the danger, couldn't have done.

Young children are so easily knocked off their feet and there is often a "step" in the sea when the churning waves tumble the stones and it suddenly gets deeper.

I keep half an eye on the pair as I swim.

This was at California, just near the California Tavern and fish and chip shop, on Sunday July 24 at around 5pm.

At the same time a woman, not much older than me, was being pulled from the same churning brown waters not far away between Winterton and Hemsby.

Rescuers valiantly tried for over an hour to revive her, just as I was bobbing about and watching the two siblings rushing to and from the waves squealing in delight.

I resolved to start year-round sea-swimming when I turned 50. It has been a real tonic and my happy place.

I'm not blind to the dangers, always swim with someone, and if I don't like the look of it on a certain day I won't go in.

Chillingly, this lady may have thought the same, that she was safe enough.

We don't know what happened, but the terrible tragedy is a timely reminder to know your limits, educate yourself on how to stay calm and escape a rip, and, above all, not to panic.