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When swimming can get you arrested

One of the joys of swimming, as we’ve mentioned several times previously, is the opportunity it gives us to stretch ourselves in multiple dimensions – primarily speed, distance and water temperature, or some combination of those three. But there is a fourth: water conditions. It can be great fun to play around in waves and surf. And the bigger the waves, the more the fun, right?
Over the past couple of weeks the seas around Britain’s storm battered coast have provided an opportunity for adrenalin junkies to test themselves against incredibly wild conditions. But one swimmer found himself arrested following a dip in the sea at Aberystwyth after a concerned friend alerted the police and coastguard.
The swimmer was later charged and fined £90 for being drunk and disorderly. We don’t know the full details but the swim took place at about 7:30 in the morning on New Year’s Day so it’s quite possible the swimmer had been up drinking all night but it wasn’t a totally spontaneous act as he had gone to the trouble of putting on a wetsuit. He also swam back to shore unaided and was unharmed by his adventure. Swimming in the sea is not illegal and he didn’t ask for or need assistance nor did he harm anyone else, so was the punishment justified?
The police clearly think so. This is what Inspector Louise Bradshaw had to say:
“In addition to it being highly dangerous for the individual and any members of the public who may try to assist – these incidents present further demands to our emergency services, who work hard to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the public.”
Moreover, the waves were reported to be 4.5m high and a coastguard spokesperson said: “He was lucky, I’m surprised he got out.”
We’ve previously expressed our concern about people who push beyond their limits in cold water but with a properly planned cold water challenge it is usually fairly straightforward to extract a struggling swimmer from the water and provide treatment. Rough water is different because any rescue attempt will almost certainly expose the rescuers to danger. Swimmers should therefore be more prudent when challenging themselves with rough water, and never do it when their judgement is impaired by alcohol.