Man fights rip tide in life-threatening Christmas swim

James Gittins

James Gittins, 44, has warned even experienced swimmers about the dangers of the sea after he was taken by a rip tide on Christmas Day off South Beach in Lowestoft. - Credit: Submitted

A Christmas swim turned into a life-or-death battle after a swimmer was swept away by the sea.

James Gittins, 44, who lives in Worcestershire, was missing for almost an hour after being taken by the tide from South Beach in Lowestoft on Christmas Day.

He had travelled with his daughter to Lowestoft to form a support bubble and spend Christmas with his parents who own a guest house on Marine Parade.

Mr Gittins, a hobbyist adventurer into mountains and sea sports, said: "I'm experienced in dangerous and adverse situations and didn't think a little Christmas swim was going to become extreme, especially as I have swam from South Beach since I was a toddler."

But after setting off into the surf as his family watched from the shore, and swimming a hundred metres towards the sand bank in front of South Beach, Mr Gittins realised he was being taken by the rip.

"I was warm in my undersuit and also extremely buoyant and restricted with my strokes," he said.

Swimming experience meant he knew not to fight the rip and he swam with the current looking for another exit point to swim back to shore.

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The rip took him in front of the harbour mouth, which was rapidly emptying, and started taking him to North Beach.

"Some parts of the North Beach sea floor are full of underwater dangers and lost fishing gear, so I had a window to get to the huge sea defence boulders north of the harbour mouth in front of SLP," he said.

The waves pushed Mr Gittins to the rocks until he was able to climb out over them.

Then he scaled the security wall in front of SLP and finally over the railings onto Hamilton Road.

"Then I knew I was truly safe," he said.

He flagged down a car and called his family to let them know he was alive and well.

"Having thought I'd been taken to Davy Jones's locker on Christmas Day, you can imagine their extreme relief," he said.

Lowestoft Lifeboat

Lowestoft Lifeboat returning to shore after being called out on Christmas Day. - Credit: Mick Howes

Mr Gittins hobbled to Battery Green Road where a coastguard truck stopped and picked him up.

"The lovely Dee from Gorleston Coastguard then drove me to the Coastguard and their excellent manager Claire Hall stationed by the Claremont who cleared me fit and well and took me to my daughter and parents and conducted a final health check."

Mr Gittins also expressed his gratitude to those who came to the call.

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