As the weather warms up (hopefully) and the days get longer the pull to go swimming at the beach and in lakes become stronger. Swimming is a great way to relax, cool down and exercise but we all know it comes with some dangers that we may face, swimming in open waters poses a higher threat so ensure you’re clued up before taking the plunge with our top tips below!
Plan Ahead Before Arriving
Planning ahead before going swimming is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your safety. The top three things to do before arriving at your destination are:
Check the weather and tide timetable
Of course you know it is dangerous to swim during a storm due to higher winds and waves but ensure there are no predicted high winds before you leave and make a note of the tide changes so you don’t get caught stranded.
Swim at a lifeguarded beach.
A lifeguard is able to help in an emergency and can spot when the sea becomes too dangerous to swim in and so will alert all those to get out of the water. If you’ve not been to this destination before you can always chat to the lifeguard about where to swim, especially if you plan on doing water sports such as surfing or SUP. Please remember even if there is a lifeguard manning the beach you are still responsible for your own safety when swimming in open waters.
Swim with others.
Make arrangements to swim with others so two or more of you can assess the situation, if you do find yourself in an emergency hopefully one of you will be able to call for help. If you’re going alone, find an area with other swimmers in.
Arriving at your Destination
Planning ahead is the first step to swimming in the sea safely but you should always reassess when you get to your chosen location, things to look out for are:
1. Observe the water and the waves
Watch the water for a little while, is it behaving as you’d expect or are the waves higher than you’d like? Are they breaking apart? Are there any rip currents? Read further on for information on how to spot a rip current.
2. Beach surface
The surface of the beach can affect the waves and how you enter and exit the water safely, is it a sandy, pebbled, rocky, muddy beach?
3.Look out for rocks.
Are there any rocks or obstructions in the sea that could cause you harm? Could you be thrown against them if the tides change? Could they cause you to cut and bruise yourself? Is anyone behaving dangerously near the rocks or obstructions such as jumping into shallow waters?
4. Is the tide behaving as expected?
5. Are there any danger areas along the beach that could cause you to get stuck in the sea or stranded on an island?
6. Are there boats in the water?
7. Are there surfers or other water sports happening in the water nearby that could potentially be of harm?
Entering and Exiting the Water
One last sea check before you take the plunge. Plan your entry and exit routes, especially if you plan on swimming a long distance. Look out for the following:
1. Look out for any currents, tidal flow and which way the wind is going.
2. Look out for any hazards you may encounter along the stretch of beach and water you plan to swim in by walking up and down your route.
3. Plan your exit so that you can get out of the water easily, no rocks, less seaweed and no slippery silt or mud is preferable.
4. Never jump into cold water to prevent cold water shock. Slowly submerge yourself in so your body has time to acclimatise.
What to Wear in the Sea
What you wear in the sea can also affect your swimming capabilities and help protect you if in danger.
We all know how cold the sea is even in the summer months in the UK so if you plan on swimming in the sea often investing in a wetsuit is a must. It will also help you swim faster which is great if you find yourself in trouble.
A brightly coloured silicone hat will not only keep your head warm but it will make you easier to spot in the water if you need help.
Avoid salt water in your eyes with a good pair of goggles. Consider mirrored lens goggles to help you see on a bright sunny day.
A tow buoy is a brightly coloured, light float which helps others keep track of you in the water such as lifeguards or boaters. You can also use the buoy to take a quick rest on should you need to.
Swim Socks and Gloves
Keep your hands and feet warm by donning a pair of swim gloves and socks, the last thing you want is numb fingers and toes.
Keeping Children Safe when Sea Swimming
A day at the seaside is great day out for all the family but the water can be fear inducing when your children are near, here are some top tips on keeping your children safe at the beach:
Keep your rubber rings and dinghy’s for the pool, unpredictable winds can float them out to sea and put your children in danger.
Supervise in the Water
Even the best little swimmers can get caught out in the waves and tides, never let your children in the sea without keeping a close eye on them. Always be close enough to grab them as a wave can pull them under at any moment.
Chose a lifeguarded beach and when you arrive visit the lifeguard hut and ask for a safety wristband. There is a space for you to write your telephone number on and teach your children to go to the lifeguard hut if they get lost. The lifeguards will look after them and give you a call if they are lost.
As well as tides there are several waves that you need to be aware of for your safety when sea swimming, they include:
Found on flat or a slightly sloped beach, the wave tumbles down the front of the wave and is good for swimmers.
These occur on steep beaches and suddenly break with power, enough to knock you off your feet. We’d avoid swimming here.
Found on steep and rocky beaches, they may not break but instead will have a strong backwash and undertow which will carry you off out and under the sea. Avoid swimming here.
Finally, we’re on to rip currents. These occur when there is a buildup of water from tides and waves, they can take you out to sea scarily fast. To identify a rip current look out for the following:
- Debris on water surface, floating away from the beach.
- Sea debris, seaweed and sand churning.
- Lack of waves, they may break either side of the rip current or you may not see any at all.
If you get stuck in a rip current it is important to remain calm, don’t fight the current and swim along the shoreline until out of the current. Once you have escaped the rip current you will be able to swim directly back to shore.
We hope you’ve found our blog informative to keep you safe when swimming. If you liked this one why not check out some of our others including Staying Safe this Summer: 2021! and Luggage Locks – The Guide to Luggage Security.