A point of view shot looking down onto the ground. Two feet are stood on a rock surrounded by the incoming tide

Coast Clever

Coast Clever

HM Coastguard is called to around 36,000 incidents each year – with peak times happening in bank holidays, half terms and school holidays. Of the incidents we see, thousands happen as a result of tidal cut off or along the clifftops and cliff bases due to slips, trips and falls.

Our Coast Clever campaign aims to caution people about coastal risks, especially mud, offshore winds, tides and cliffs. We focus on coastal unfamiliarity and what simple steps can be made to help keep you safe. 

We hope to communicate coastal dangers to everyone, but especially to under 30 year olds and those who are more likely to be involved in accidents at the coast.

Why is checking tide times so important?

Incoming tides don’t just come in from out at sea – they can also sneak up behind you and cut off your exit route, leaving you stranded and in danger. By knowing when it’s high and low tide, you can make sure you’ll get back in plenty of time without putting yourself at risk.

How can I tell if cliffs are stable?

Cliffs are often more unstable than they look, and rockslides or cliff falls can happen at any time. Stay safe, keep well back from cliff edges and a good distance from the bases of cliffs.

Why mud?

Along the coast, mud or quicksand often just looks like wet sand and can easily be mistaken. Never cross mud or quicksand as a shortcut – you can easily get stuck. Combine a sticky situation with an incoming tide, and the results could be disastrous… If you do get stuck in mud, stay still, lean back and spread your weight.

A paddleboard in the sea with a pair of hands holding on to it

What are offshore winds?

Offshore winds blow in a direction away from the shore, out to sea. They are especially dangerous when doing water sports such as paddleboarding or kayaking, as they can quickly blow you far out to sea. Paddling against an offshore wind can be incredibly tiring and leave you exhausted.

Identifying an offshore wind

  • If you are stood on the shore facing out to sea, the wind will be blowing on the back of your neck if there’s an offshore wind.  
  • If you see an orange windsock flying when you’re at the beach, this also signifies offshore winds or strong wind conditions.  
  • It is dangerous to use inflatables in the sea. Leave these at home for your beach visit and keep them for the pool.
HM Coastguard's top tips for staying safe:
  • Check the weather forecast and tide times before you head out
  • Always take coastal walks when the tide is going out, rather than coming in
  • Stay clear of cliff edges and bases
  • Look for signage to avoid mud
  • If you do get stuck in mud, lean back to spread your weight evenly
  • Avoid water sports such as paddleboarding when wind is blowing from land out to sea
  • Take a fully charged mobile with you
Planning a trip to the beach?
Ways to be coast clever

All that's left to do is stay coast clever and enjoy your visit, wherever you're heading and at whatever time of year.

In an emergency along the coast, always call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

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