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Fitness & Sports

Swimming Safety Tips In Open Water

Swimming in open water can make a pleasant change from the mind-numbing
lengths of a swimming pool. Instead of the claustrophobic feeling of being
enclosed in a swimming lane, you have a sense of freedom in the open water. Any
large expanse of water will do, whether it is the ocean, a lake or a dam. Open
water swimming is great fun if you’re training for a triathlon, iron-man
competition or if you’re just wanting to stay in shape and improve your stamina.
It is important not just to enjoy your swim, but also to swim safely! Here are a
few tips for swimming in open water:

  1. Don’t just take the plunge, especially if the water is cold. Your body has to adjust to the water temperature gradually. If the water is cold… below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, you should wear a wet suit. A swim cap and earplugs help to keep your head warm. Ear plugs also guard against earache and infections. Ease yourself into the cold water and start with a session of around 15 minutes the first time. You can then gradually increase your time in the water with each swim.
  2. Upon leaving the cold water after your swim, take your wet suit off, wrap yourself in a towel, have a warm drink and dress warmly. Your body temperature drops quicker in water and you need to get warm again.
  3. For safety purposes, never swim alone. Always take a “swimming buddy” or join a swim club and swim together in a group. In the open water, potentially dangerous situations can arise. There are unknown elements such as currents, boats, seaweed and fog which you may have to negotiate. If you have a buddy or group, there is someone to help you if you get into difficulty.
  4. On hot sunny days, especially if you have fair skin, apply waterproof sunscreen at least 20 minutes before your swim. Your skin can burn quite badly in the water if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
  5. If you wear spectacles, consider prescription swimming goggles or daily disposable contact lenses with non-prescription goggles over them . In the open water, it is important to see where you’re going and to look out for any boats.
  6. Swimming goggles come in various tints. Use blue lenses for cloudy days and dark lenses for bright, sunny days.
  7. Beware of fog. It’s easy to lose sight of the shore and get lost in dense fog.
  8. If a lightning storm is brewing, don’t swim. This is one electrifying experience you want to avoid!
  9. Chaffing can be a problem, especially in salt water. Rub petroleum jelly over areas of friction if you are prone to chaffing.
  10. Be careful of becoming entangled in seaweed when swimming in the ocean. Try not to kick when in seaweed as it tends to wrap around your legs. Also try to stay high in the water.

By following these practical tips, you can ensure that your open water swim
is both an enjoyable and safe experience. Swimming is a great way to keep in
shape. Get into the water and have some fun! Just remember the old adage
“if in doubt, get out.”

Gregory De Villiers