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New water safety group formed in Moray to ease concerns following recent surge in wild swimming and paddleboarding

The River Spey at Boat of Garten. Picture by Sandy McCook
The River Spey at Boat of Garten. Picture by Sandy McCook

A surge in wild swimming, paddleboarding and kayaking has resulted in a new water safety group being established.

The organisation will focus on educating the public on the dangers faced by those taking part in leisure activities at sea, around harbours, rivers and lochs, and comes from an increase in people drowning and being seriously injured in incidents across Scotland this summer. 

At a meeting of Moray Council economic growth, housing and environmental stability committee on Tuesday, harbour development and operations manager Stuart Akass told members the initial meeting of the Moray Water Safety Group was held in July. 

Wild swimming has exploded in popularity. Picture by Danny Lawson/PA Wire

He said: “It was thought up by our harbour master and it is particularly pertinent at the moment with a lot of interaction in the water and safety issues. 

“The main aim is providing education surrounding water safety, not just at harbours or the coast but inland waterways as well. 

“The main area of focus will be wild swimming, those using small water craft and paddle boards and highlighting the dangers, then to come up with some ideas to promote health and safety in and around all water ways.”

Then group includes representatives from the RNLI, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, harbour users, water sports organisations, fishermen and council staff.

Its next meeting takes place on Friday. 

The dangers of ‘tombstoning’

SNP councillor for Speyside Glenlivet Louise Nicol said: “I welcome that this is not just a coastal thing but inland too. 

“Nothing makes your heart sink like the search and rescue helicopter going up and down the Spey.” 

Conservative councillor for Keith and Cullen Donald Gatt raised concern over people jumping into the sea from harbour walls. 

He said: “Being down at Portknockie yesterday it wasn’t just children jumping in the water it was adults as well. 

A dog on the front a paddleboard as their owner takes part in Dogmasters, the UK’s only dog surfing and paddleboard championship in July 2021. Picture by Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

“Can we have a review to make sure we have enough signs and the correct signage up highlighting the dangers of what they call tombstoning?” 

Officers advised appropriate notices would be put in place to help raise awareness.

Committee chairman Graham Leadbitter, SNP councillor for Elgin South, commended the initiative.  

He said: “There have been incidents along the coast recently and signage at key access points in harbours and public car parks is probably an early win that could be achieved with joint working.

Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter

“Wider circulation and anything we can do to reinforce what to do if you’re in trouble in the water is very welcome.”

Decisions taken by the safety group will come before the committee as part of the quarterly marine safety report.

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