Sport NI has reported record engagement with the 2023 Get Wet Stay Safe Programme. Now in its second year, the scheme, which aims to raise awareness about water safety, has seen 729* people participate in training sessions across NI since May 2023, and over 1,300 since the campaign began.

The initiative is intended to raise awareness of the risks associated with any water-based activity, including the impact of cold-water shock. It also aims to communicate water safety messaging to StandUp Paddleboard users, Sit on Top Kayak users and open water swimmers across the country.

From May until the end of August this year, the scheme saw weekly training sessions held in every county across NI.

Get Wet Stay Safe, which is funded by SportNI, is part of a joint initiative with Swim Ireland, Swim Ulster, the RNLI, Irish Surfing, and the Outdoor Partnership, with marketing support from Outdoor Recreation NI.

Richard Archibald, Director of Sport at Sport NI says, “It has been brilliant to see the increase in people taking part in water sports across Northern Ireland. Water sports are a great way to stay active and being outdoors has many benefits for our mental health and wellbeing but open water also has significant risks.

“We want to ensure that water sport is enjoyed but is done so safely. Over the past two years over 1,000 people have taken part in the Get Wet Stay Safe programme, equipping them with the knowledge and confidence to enjoy their time on the water safely while being aware of the risks and what to do should a problem arise.”

The programme has seen a syllabus for training in StandUp Paddleboarding and Sit on Top Kayaking established through engagement between the head of paddle sport at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre and the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland. All of the tutors who deliver the programme are qualified paddle sport instructors.

Richard Timms, Open Water Swimming Development Officer at Swim Ulster, comments, “We are thrilled with the success of the Get Wet Stay Safe campaign to date. This unique initiative continues to educate on water safety, arming participants with essential skills and lifesaving knowledge.

“Distress calls and tragic swimming incidents have surged in recent years and this pioneering campaign stands out as one of a kind, with our instructors teaching skills, such as knowing when you shouldn’t swim and what to expect from cold water shock.

“Get Wet Stay Safe saves lives by fostering safer open water practices.”

As part of the scheme, participants were asked to complete an Outcomes Based Accountability survey.

Ethan Loughrey, Communication and Training Executive at Outdoor Recreation NI, adds, “We’re delighted to announce that this year’s Get Wet Stay Safe campaign has been incredibly successful.

“Participation in the initiative is an all-time high, with 729 people engaging in training sessions to date, despite some adverse weather conditions. The results of our Outcomes Based Accountability survey show that at least 92** per cent of the feedback from participants on all aspects of the training was very good.

“At Outdoor Recreation NI, we’re aware of the many health benefits of exploring the great outdoors and would encourage people across NI to do so safely and responsibly.”

To find out more about Outdoor Recreation NI, visit