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Safety Measures for Open-Water Swimming by Jennifer Loxley

Posted on: 6th February 2019

Safety Measures for Open-Water Swimming

On a monthly basis, 4.49 million people in the United Kingdom actively participate in swimming, according to a published report by Statista. More people are moving out of swimming pools to open-water swimming. Open-water swimming is gaining worldwide popularity thanks to the introduction of wetsuits and triathlon races. Worldwide there are already many thousands of established open water events. Although swimming is a healthy activity for people of all ages, injuries and accidents can happen. Therefore, as the preference for outdoor swimming grows, safety measures can be adopted to help reduce the occurrence of accidents.

Let’s briefly discuss some of the challenges faced by open water swimmers and safety measures which can be adopted:

Challenges Experienced by Swimmers in Open Waters

The measures used in protecting kids from indoor pool accidents mirror closely with the ones taken in open-water swimming. Rivers, lakes and oceans are some common open-water swimming spots, and the risks associated with them depend on the location. Swimmers encounter challenges such as strong currents, hypothermia due to cold waters, bacterial infection, vertigo and dangerous marine life like sharks and jellyfish. Guiding lanes and boundaries don’t exist in open waters -- hence you may lose direction and end up swimming in circles or worse still away from safety. Due to these and other risks posed by open-water swimming, safety measures are required.

Safety Measures for Open-Water Swimming

Confirming that a lifeguard is on-duty is the first step of ensuring safety in open waters. Lifeguards inform you of suitable times and conditions for swimming. They also know the changing conditions of the waters and dangers posed by sharks or other aquatic organisms. Getting a swimming partner strong enough to pull you out of water in case of a cramp can also keep you safe. Wearing a full-body wetsuit may be necessary, as it improves your body’s insulation and buoyancy in case the water is cold. Always take and use a tow float, they are designed to take a phone and some energy feeds and if the worst comes to the worst you have a means of making contact.

Always Swim in a Designated Location

Most designated areas have set times when swimming is allowed for the public. They also have flags which indicate swimming borders, rescue boats having trained lifesavers and first aid kits in case of an emergency. In the event you’re swimming alone, ensure floating devices are nearby and be aware of your surroundings. While well-trained swimmers can swim on their own, nothing replaces a companion. It is advisable not to swim alone in open waters for safety purposes. If you can have someone in a canoe next to you that would be the ideal along with someone on the shore observing with binoculars. They will be in a better position to notify the coastguards on the beach quickly if a problem should arise.

You should always remember to take precautionary steps when swimming in open waters, whether you're crossing a sea channel or swimming near the shoreline. The important thing is for you to stay safe.

By Jennifer Loxley

Image taken by Todd Quackenbush @toddquackenbush