Antoinette McKeown (Sport NI); Caoimhe Connor (The Outdoor Partnership); Lisa Hollingum (RNLI); Paddy Elliott (Sport NI); Ruth McQuillan (Swim Ulster); Kerry Kirkpatrick (Outdoor Recreation NI).
A new campaign called ‘Get Wet Stay Safe’ has been launched by Sport NI ahead of the expected influx of people taking to watersports during the summer.
The campaign is part of a joint initiative with Swim Ireland, Swim Ulster, the RNLI, Irish Surfing, and the Outdoor Partnership, with marketing support from Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland.
The campaign aims to address the three main watersports which have seen the largest uptake since the pandemic, which are stand up paddleboarding; sit on top kayaking and open water swimming.
Sessions are being run across all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland and are completely free to attend for anyone who is interested in how to participate in the above watersports safely. They will cover equipping people with the necessary skills, knowledge and decision-making abilities to safely participate in each watersport more independently. Locally, sessions will be held at South Lake Leisure Centre Craigavon and Kinnego Marina Lurgan.
The campaign comes following the tragic incident in Wales in October 2021 in which four people were killed whilst paddle boarding when the weather changed suddenly.
Sport NI Chief Executive, Antoinette McKeown, highlighted the importance of understanding the risks when going into open water.
She said: “Open water can be a real danger to anyone not familiar with the risks or the necessary preparations which are required. It is great to see so many people reaping the physical and mental health benefits of the outdoors as they increasingly appreciate the natural world around them after the pandemic lockdowns.
“While of course we are delighted to see more and more people getting into watersports, we encourage them to do so responsibly, and the Get Wet Stay Safe campaign is a fantastic initiative to highlight this.”
Since the pandemic there has been a huge rise in the numbers of people both taking to water sports, and as a correlation of that, a rise in the number of people needing rescued.
Lisa Hollingum, RNLI Water Safety Delivery said: “We are delighted to support and promote the Get Wet Stay Safe campaign in Northern Ireland. This is the ideal approach in educating people in the community who are eager to explore new activities both in and on the water. These sessions will equip people with the knowledge and advice on how to safely engage in these sports which is very welcome ahead of the busy summer season”
Tickets for the Get Wet Stay Safe sessions are available from EventBrite via GetWetNI.com and courses will run for several months.