Can you float to live? Lifeboat crew share crucial tips for summer

Watch: Royal National Lifeboat Institution demonstrates Float to Live technique

Floating may seem like something obvious we should all know how to do. But how many of us really know how to do it correctly – well enough to save our own life?

With this in mind, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has launched its Float to Live campaign ahead of summer to increase the number of those who can confidently answer this and have the best possible chances of survival in an emergency situation.

To kick off the campaign the RNLI, supported by Helly Hansen, hosted a special floating masterclass complete with lifeguard demonstrations at none other than London Sky Pool (which Yahoo UK took part in, and can now safely say our floating skills have improved for the better).

But with a crystal clear swimming pool suspended 115 feet above the ground acting as a bridge between two tall buildings not the typical swimming spot, the good news is the tips we learnt first-hand can be used in any type of water you might unexpectedly find yourself struggling in.

Float to Live - two people floating in sky pool. (RNLI-Nathan Williams)
Everyone floats differently – you just need to follow the basics. (RNLI-Nathan Williams)

"No one goes to the coast and expects to get into trouble, and up to 50% of people who do sadly lose their lives never actually intended to get into the water in the first place, so that's why this is really important," said an RNLI spokesperson at the event on Tuesday.

"The important thing to remember is that we've done testing where many people float differently and also in different types of environments, but just remember [the essential basics of] Float to Live."

Rupert Knowles, volunteer crew member of the Teddington RNLI Lifeboat station, spoke to Yahoo UK at the event about how it's not treading water that will save your life, but floating, as well as the types of rescue scenarios that occur, and how exactly to put Float to Live into practice.

Float to live. (RNLI-Nathan Williams)
RNLI crew member Rupert Knowles and a floating masterclass in action at the Sky Pool in London. (RNLI-Nathan Williams)

In 2022, there were 226 accidental fatalities in the water, which Knowles says can occur from things like being cut off or falling in.

"One of the biggest things we see is cold water shock, so when people enter the water it's that temperature difference between the outside and the water. Even in the height of summer people can struggle from cold water shock, and even the strongest swimmers," he explains.

"People will panic and then they're more likely to take in water and of course more likely to drown. So having a basic understanding of the Float to Live technique can be a real life-saving thing to know."

So, what exactly is the technique? "Float to Live is very simple. It's about making sure you go on your back, adopt the starfish position – so hands and arms out – and tilt your head back and dip the ears as it's important to get them in the water," says Knowles.

"That keeps your airway and chest up, then you can relax and concentrate on your breathing. That will allow you to get used to the cold, give you a bit more energy, and then you will also be able to call for or wait for help." This also gives rescue teams and lifeguards more time to get to where you are and give assistance, or you might be able to get strong enough to swim out.

Float to Live drone shots of someone floating in the sky pool from high above and down below. (RNLI-Nathan Williams)
What kind of floater are you? (RNLI-Nathan Williams)

However, continuing to hold the starfish position might not work for everyone, so it can be helpful to get familiar with the type of floater you are.

"We all float differently, so if you find your legs sinking, that's okay," emphasises Knowles, which we at Yahoo UK found particularly helpful to know in terms of transforming and feeling confident with our skills.

"You can just do a bit of gentle sculling with your arms – there's no need to thrash around – and that will help you stay above and concentrate on that breathing."

And can Float to Live work in all types of water? "Absolutely, regardless of whether you're at the sea, the river, or lake, the same technique applies and it can work just as well."

In terms of children, Knowles says it's key they learn the right techniques from a young age, and if you're pet gets into trouble in the water don't go in after it as this can put you in danger – call and wait for help.

Watch: Man shares how Float to Live technique saved his life

Read more: How to stay safe around water in the hot weather (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

Read more: Five safety steps everyone must take before going wild swimming (Yahoo Life UK, 3-min read)