Water safety – open water swimming

Transitioning from a pool to open water can be daunting, but if you follow some simple safety steps, it can be fantastic. The biggest difference to pool swimming is the temperature. While not as warm, it can be rewarding to feel at one with nature. Open water swimming can be undertaken in lakes, rivers and seas across the world. There are dedicated open water swimming venues across the UK and further afield.

The following tips should help you enjoy nature whilst staying safe:

Plan & equip: Consider all of the dangers* and use a venue that is known to you or known as an open swimming area. Research the area to make sure it’s safe and you know where to get in and out of the water. Take time to read signs and research local advice. Ensure you have all of the right equipment: wetsuits, brightly coloured swimming hat, tow floats, warm and dry clothes, a warm drink and some food to refuel with

Take company: Try to have a buddy with you, and tell someone else where you’re going and how long you expect to be

Know your limits: Enter the water slowly so that your body acclimatises to the temperature. Swim parallel to the shoreline where possible and try to stay away from deeper (colder) water. Plan and be aware of exit points that you can use. If you start to feel cold, get out of the water and warm up as quickly as possible.

Float to live: If you get into trouble – float. Familiarise yourself with any rescue equipment, and ensure that you have an understanding of basic self-survival in the water **

No alcohol: Do not enter the water after consuming alcohol – especially open waters. Alcohol will cause you to lose heat

* Dangers to be mindful of include heights of the fall/jump if tombstoning, the depth of the water (which can change and be unpredictable), submerged objects which may not be visible, obstacles or other people in the water, lack of safety equipment/increased difficulties for rescue, cold water shock, strong currents, uneven banks and river beds, water quality.

** If someone is in difficulty in the water, shout reassurance and encouragement to them and shout for help/call 999 or 112. Without endangering yourself, reach out to them if you can. Extend your reach with a stick, pole or item of clothing. Lie down or stay secure. Alternatively, throw them something that will float that they can grab hold of. Keep your eye on them at all times.

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