During 2013 there were three million tourists to La Rochelle, a location amongst the top ten favourites for tourists.
The same year La Rochelle hosted the Championnant du monde plongeon world diving championships, from a platform 27 m above the sea into water 5.5 m deep.
Yet the French Atlantic west coast has the country's most dangerous conditions for swimmers because of its tides and currents. Some indications of the level of risk come from coloured flags along the coast.
Red means swimming is forbidden, orange means it is dangerous and green means supervised swimming out to 300m. In any open space, river, sea, lake, pond, if swimming out beyond 300m you do so at your own risk.
Four people die a day during the holidays by drowning, with most happening outside supervised areas.
After a spate of tragedies in 2012, the Institut national de prévention et d'éducation pour la santé (INPES) National institute for prevention and health education produced guidelines as part of a campaign to make bathing safer, including encouraging children to learn to swim, the first point in their leaflet 'Se baigner sans danger!'
This says adults and children alike should as well as learning to swim under direction from a fully trained instructor, obtain an assessment of ability before swimming, and then only take a dip in a supervised area.
It continues with advise to take notice of the coloured flags and ensure that the green flag is flying, to introduce yourself to the lifeguard and ask about the conditions, the type of waves, the current to expect, the tides and natural dangers. Make sure that these conditions do not change during the day and keep updating yourself about the weather forecast.
When I went to Lacanau océan, South of La Rochelle I thought the waves looked small and was surprised to see so many young men in wetsuits carrying surf boards into the welcoming sea. Yet only waist high in, the strength of the current beneath my feet almost knocked me over.
See also emissions, France3 'La plage et ses Dangers' 20/07/13
France2 Special emission 17/07/14 'Quelles sont les mesures prises pour éviter les noyades?'
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