Swimming instructors say UAE's beaches in need of more lifeguards

Coaches want children and grown-ups to be better prepared for perils such as riptides

Swimming coaches in the UAE are urging beachgoers to beware of dangerous riptides and to take swimming lessons to be safer in the water.

The warnings came after three people drowned in the UAE this week.

On Friday, a mother drowned in the sea off a beach in Umm Al Quwain after getting into difficulty while swimming.

In another case, a five-year-old boy who spent 50 days in intensive care died on Tuesday following a swimming accident.

I’ve noticed that the adults sometimes feel embarrassed that they are learning how to swim at that age, but that shouldn’t be the case

Mahmoud Abdel Hadi, swimming instructor

Angelica Mendoza, a licensed swimming coach in the UAE for the past six years, said the country's beaches must be monitored.

“There needs to be more lifeguards as it [swimming] could be dangerous, especially for those who aren’t very experienced and are weak swimmers,” she said.

“People also should get some swimming lessons so they can learn how to avoid dangerous situations and be safe.

"Riptides can you pull you in, and a swimmer should know how to survive them.

“Parents should also get lessons with their children, and there needs to be an adult present whenever there is a child swimming, no matter how much training that child has.”

The World Health Organisation reported that there are an estimated 236,000 drowning deaths worldwide every year.

It listed drowning as one of the top five causes of death for people aged between one year to 14 and 48 to 85.

There are lifeguards stationed at beaches across the UAE, but there have been calls for more to increase safety.

The dangers of rip currents

The UAE remains a popular destination for Brits looking for warmer weather. Antonie Robertson / The National
Swimming coaches say the public needs to learn how to swim, and also the technique to handling a rip current. Antonie Robertson / The National

Banu Cetin Akca, a co-founder of UrbanCircle – an online booking platform for swimming coaches – said the instructors who work for her company raised awareness of dangerous currents among their clients.

She said they teach children and parents how to react in a riptide.

“They teach how to remain calm and not to panic as a start point. Currents will only drag them away from the shore, but will not drag them under water,” Ms Akca said.

“So, our coaches teach their students how to keep their head above water and how to control their breathing until it [the current] weakens and how to conserve their energy to be able to ask for help.

“Fighting the current and swimming directly back to the coast might not be achieved by even the strongest swimmers.

"You have to swim parallel to the shore or float free instead of fighting it.”

Instructor Mahmoud Abdel Hadi has been coaching for 11 years.

He has clients that are aged between eight months to 55 years old.

“I’ve noticed that the adults sometimes feel embarrassed that they are learning how to swim at that age, but that shouldn’t be the case,” he said.

“Knowing how to swim is a life-saving skill. Parents shouldn’t just give their kids lessons. Adults need to know how to swim so they can supervise the young ones and avoid being in dangerous situations when they are swimming.”

Mr Hadi said that a person should know how deep water is, how strong the currents are and if there is a lifeguard nearby before entering the sea to swim.

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Published: May 30, 2021 07:00 AM

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