Adventure firms that would usually be considered to be commercial competitors have joined forces to develop and promote shared safety standards for the emerging activity of coasteering.
The new guidance for coasteering providers recognises that risk-taking is an integral part of an adventure activity that needs to be managed rather than eliminated.
Coasteering, which involves traversing the coast at the intertidal zone using a combination of scrambling, walking, swimming and jumping, is now offered as an organised adventure activity by firms around the UK. Thousands of people are likely to take part in a coasteering session this summer.
To respond to rising activity and increasing reports of incidents and near misses, an industry working group was set up involving around 120 coasteering providers, plus the outdoor industry regulator (AALA) and safety and rescue organisations, under the direction of the National Water Safety Forum’s beach safety advisory group. Established in 2007, the working group has defined industry standards and good practice and published best practice guides – one covering skills and training for coasteering guides, and the other outlining best practice for providers in managing the risks associated with coasteering, including drowning, impact injuries and the effects of temperature.
A new industry group – the National Coasteering Charter (NCC) – has now been established to take forward the sharing and embedding of good practice across the sport. John-Paul Eatock, head of quality at Falmouth Marine School, has been appointed as its chairman. He said: “New and emerging sports like coasteering often have local pockets of knowledge and excellent practice. Defining, sharing and embedding good practice was the objective of the original working group and this will now be taken forward by the NCC.
“Agreeing industry standards and good practice was no mean feat. One of the issues identified early on was the sheer number of organisations involved in developing coasteering, who were doing a good job in terms of promoting good practice locally, but lacked resources to scale this nationally.”
The risk-taking context of coasteering and the balance that needs to be struck between risk and benefit is set out in the best practice document. It says: “Water as a resource for recreation and leisure purposes presents the attraction of challenge and of being at one with nature. However, all adventurous activity has an element of danger; adventure infers that there is an element of the unknown, and it is this that presents the biggest challenge.
“The issue is how to balance the need to offer excitement and the feeling of potential danger with methods to ensure an optimum balance between the benefits and the risks of the activities available.”
Base level skills and competences for coasteering guides is available at: www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/member/projects/info/wg1210_coasteering3.pdf.
Best practice safety guidance for coasteering providers is available at: www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/member/projects/info/wg1210_coasteering4.pdf.