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BEGINNERS GUIDE TO COASTEERING UK

All you need to know about Coasteering in the UK. From history to how to's and FAQ's.

WHAT IS COASTEERING? | A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO COASTEERING UK

Coasteering is an adventerous activity that involves traversing the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline, with short swimming sections, low level scrambing, slucies, gullies, white water whirlpools and jumps. With its blend of exploration, adrenaline, and stunning coastal scenery, coasteering provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature and challenge yourself in a safe and controlled environment.

Now, one of the most popular adventure activities in the UK. The term "coasteering" was coined by Edward C Pyatt, combining "mountaineering" with "coast," and was popularised by Andy Middleton in Wales in 1985, who turned it into a business concept, now known as TYF Adventure.

The information laid out in this guide is drawn from shared collective experiences from the members of the National Coasteering Charter who together with bodies such as RNLI & ROSPA have been promoting safe coasteering since 2011.

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WHAT IS IN THE GUIDE

In this comprehensive guide, we address some of the most common questions asked about coasteering. Scroll down and click on the section you wish to learn more about.
 

WHAT IS COASTEERING?

What Is Coasteering? We delve into the essence of coasteering, defining this thrilling activity that combines exploration and adventure along the coastline.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF COASTEERING UK

Explore the origins of coasteering and its evolution over time, tracing its roots and development within the UK.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT COASTEERING SESSION?

Expert guides, varied terrain and plenty of the features that make up a great coasteering session.

WHAT TO WEAR COASTEERING

What to bring. What you’ll be wearing.

IS COASTEERING SAFE?

Addressing concerns about safety, we provide insights into the measures taken to ensure the safety of coasteering participants.

COASTEERING AND THE ENVIRONMENT

How to coasteer responsibly.

WHAT IS COASTEERING?


Coasteering is a fantastic blend of adrenaline, action-packed adventure, and exploration suitable for adults and children of all ages. Traversing along the intertidal zone of the sea or a rocky coastline, it typically includes a mix of short swimming sections, entering and exiting the sea by way of climbing out or over rocks, wading in, scrambling over rocks, cliff jumping, and sometimes exploring caves.
 
Participants wear wetsuits, helmets, and buoyancy aids as they navigate the coastline, encountering various natural features like sluices, whirlpools, gullies, and intertidal areas. Coasteering allows for an up-close exploration of the coastal environment, offering an adrenaline-filled experience while also highlighting the importance of coastal conservation and appreciation for marine ecosystems. It's led by experienced guides who prioritise safety and provide insights into the local area, geography, history and wildlife.
 
 

The National Coasteering Charter describe it as:

Exploring and journeying through the impact zone between the levels of high and low, often including total immersion in seawater

Eatock and Spink (National Coasteering Charter)

A BRIEF HISTORY OF COASTEERING IN THE UK

In the 1973 book Sea Cliff Climbing, John Cleare and Robin Collomb said

“A few enthusiasts believe that coasteering will become popular and has a big future”.

They couldn’t have been more right. According to a Watersports Participation Survey 2015, Coasteering participation numbers were 125,000 in 2014.

Originally, Coasteering in its most basic form is thought to have developed from mountain starved climbers traversing sea cliffs seeking new training grounds in preparation for Alpine routes.

In 1990’s a Pembrokeshire company named TYF adventures applied to trademark the name ‘coasteering’. Giving birth to commercial coasteering and Pembrokeshire, Wales as the sport’s birthplace.

In the resulting years, coasteering has spread throughout the UK and has rapidly become one of the UK's fastest growing outdoor adventure activities.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT COASTEERING SESSION?

The key to a great coasteering session .... At the start of your coasteering session your guides will explain and demonstrate several techniques to help you enjoy your session. From shallow water entry, deep water exists to defensive swimming and deep water jumps, you'll master all of these skills as journey along the coastline.
Alongside skills and techniques, you'll learn about the history of the area and fauna and flora that inhabit the area. These elements may include from short swimming sections, low level traversing & venturing through caves, to cliff jumps, scrambling up gullies or being washed around in whirlpools and utilising the rise and fall of the ocean.

SHORT SWIMMING SECTIONS

Coasteering is a totally unique way to navigate a coastline. By no other means can you access, explore and venture into areas cut off from the land by cliffs, rocks or sea.Short open water swimming sections link one area to another and open up possibilities to reach a new section of coastline and are a main feature of coasteering. With the help of a buoyancy aid you don’t need to be a strong swimmer to enjoy these elements of coasteering.

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WILD SWIM BETWEEN SECTIONS OF COASTLINE

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BUOYANCY AIDS TO GIVE YOU SOME EXTRA FLOAT

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LEGENDARY BELLY FLOP COMPETITIONS

LOW-LEVEL TRAVERSING

It’s not as scary or difficult as it may sound. Low-level traversing means you’ll be using partly submerged rocks to help you cross over a short section of deep water.

With your feet just at the water level and climbing sideways, one foot at a time you can make it as hard or easy for yourself as you like. There is no right or wrong way, if you lose your grip, simply fall back into the deep water. Try again or swim to an easy get out point, it’s up to you.

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CLIFF JUMPING

Without a doubt, everyone’s favourite element of coasteering, yet also the most feared. As with any part of our Coasteering sessions, we’ll explain and demonstrate all of the techniques several times in preparation.

We start off small and give you plenty of occasions to practise your jumping skills before moving on to some of the bigger jumps.

Throughout your session, your guides will give you feedback and assistance on each of your jumps, helping you build skills and confidence as you progress.

Coasteering is an adventurous activity that is designed to be fun and exciting. If there is any part of the session that you don’t feel comfortable with – you won’t have to do anything that you don’t want to.

CAVE DISCOVERY

If you're lucky enough to go coasteering in an area with sea caves, these can be one of the most exciting elements of a session.

Often cut off by the tide, with cave entrances hidden by headlands and out of sight, coasteering allows you to you to explore some unique areas of the coastline up close and personal.

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SLUICES, GULLIES, WHIRLPOOLS & MORE…

One of the truly unique aspects of coasteering is utilising the flow of the water between rocks, scrambling or squeezing up slippery gullies and being washed around in natural whirlpools. As the tide reaches just the right level these features come to life and can make a fantastic addition to a session.

Sluices & pour-overs: In the coasteering world sluices & pour overs can be described as where water rises and pushes between two rocks or pours over a ledge into a deep pool. Timing is everything as you allow the ocean to wash you through or over a section, often resulting in a head dunking.

Gullies: Gullies formed over thousands of years offer a great feature to incorporate into a session. Often hidden out of sight and requiring some wriggling and climbing up through slippery gullies providing access to areas of coastline otherwise untouched.

Whirlpools: At just the right level of tide and ocean swell, certain rock formations and layouts create a fun whirlpool or washing machine effect as water recirculates within a confined space.

RISE & FALL OF THE SEA

The rise and fall of the ocean has a big part to play in your session and is an element of coasteering that can really bring a session to life. As the ocean swells around the rocks, creating spray and dramatic atmosphere, each of the features becomes enhanced and a little more energising as you negotiate your way around the coastline

WHAT TO WEAR COASTEERING?

Coasteering involves plenty of equipment to keep you both warm and safe.

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Wetsuit: Full-length wetsuits provide all over warmth.

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Neoprene Coasteer shorts: Wetsuit shorts specifically designed for coasteering.

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Lace-up trainers: Old trainers provide great grip and sole protection over wet and slippery rocks.

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Buoyancy aid: A little help to keep you buoyant and afloat in the water.

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Helmet: A half cut helmet for the rare occasion you might bump your head.

IS COASTEERING SAFE?

Commercial coasteering in the UK has been alive for over ten years and although often seemingly viewed by the public as a dangerous activity, when led by experienced guides, coasteering continues to remain a low-risk watersport. Safety briefings at the start of sessions help explain techniques and give an understanding of whats expected and the techniques required to mitigate any potential hazards.
While all adventure activities carry some level of risk, routes are pre-defined, planned, and backed with comprehensive Normal Operating Proceedures > Emergency Operating Procedures and of course thorough instructor training and assessment.

With thousands of people enjoying exploring coastlines across the UK and with over a 150 recognised National Coasteering Charter member providers coasteering safety is in good hands.

WHAT IS THE NATIONAL COASTEERING CHARTER?

The NCC is a self-appointed industry body whose aim is “to promote safe coasteering”

With the majority of providers meeting regularly both regionally and nationally to share best practice, lessons learnt and share in the passion of this activity.

“NCC providers adhere to and uphold the below:

  • Setting minimum operating standards to work to
  • Setting minimum training standards to train Coasteering Guides to
  • Upholding environmentally sustainable methods of Coasteering
  • Be a voice to represent coasteering providers nationally to other bodies
  • We provide opportunity for providers to share information to improve practice
  • To share incidents, accidents and near misses to continuously improve coasteering safety
  • All of the above are continuously developed over time.”

Source: http://www.nationalcoasteeringcharter.org.uk/about-the-ncc/#more-57

IS COASTEERING ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY?

With approximately 150 coasteering providers operating across the UK and offering regular sessions year-round, preserving the natural environment is a top priority. Many companies recognise the privilege of conducting activities in such stunning surroundings and are committed to safeguarding the coastal ecosystems. They understand the importance of maintaining the pristine condition of the coastlines and preserving habitats for local flora and fauna. As stewards of these environments, coasteering providers actively engage in conservation efforts and sustainable practices to ensure the long-term health and vitality of the coastal regions they operate in.

Through training courses such as the Adventure WISE course, who provide the national training scheme for minimising disturbance to marine wildlife, guides are being well-versed in preserving the natural coastline and its inhabitants. They're attuned to breeding seasons and nesting periods of local wildlife, respecting their habitats. Along the way, they're adept at spotting and identifying local seabirds, seals, and other fascinating wildlife, adding an enriching dimension to your experience. As activity providers, we have a duty of care to protect the area’s we use. This is done by many companies on each session through educating customers of the local wildlife or plant life and through constant litter picking and monitoring for erosion in pathways.

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