Open Water Swimming Safety Guide

Open Water Swimming Safety Guide

For many the change from the pool to open water can be a daunting one, but with some simple safety steps the delights of the great outdoors are closer than you think. For dedicated pool fanatics the major difference will be the temperature. While not as warm as a pool – open water generally varies between 15 to 25 degrees in summer depending on location – don’t be put off by the cold.

You may want to use neoprene swimming wetsuit that will keep you warm, help with buoyancy and allow you to use your natural stroke. Many swimmers enjoy the more traditional standard swim suit, giving themselves time to acclimatize to the temperature of the water.

Choose Your Location

Open water swimming is possible in rivers, lakes and the sea around the US. There are dedicated swimming areas at lakes across the country and patrolled sections of beach that offer the reassurance of a lifeguard watching out for you. 

Find Your Community

If you are not swimming in a patrolled area, make sure you always swim with a buddy and that people know what time you'll be back. You'll need to plan your swim before you leave and take into account tides and currents.

When trying to find a location to swim it’s a good idea to find other open water swimmers from the area, there are plenty of Facebook groups as well as social groups and swimming clubs across the US. Local knowledge is super important while finding a great safe swim spot and you may find some fellow swimmers to tag along with.

dry bags

Start Off Slow

Enter the water very slowly and let your body acclimatize to the temperature. Getting into cooler water too quickly results in reduced blood flow to your limbs and an uncontrollable increase in your breathing. Jumping in might sound like fun but you risk cold water shock and hitting objects under the surface.

Stand Out from the Crowd

Being visible is very important in open water when there are other users like boaters. A bright colored hat is essential and an inflatable swim buoy pulled behind you on a leash gives a clear signal that there is a swimmer in the water. The swim buoy also has the advantage of taking your weight if you need to rest during your swim, and some models like the Swim Secure Tow Donut have a waterproof compartment so that you can take your valuables with you while you swim.

tow donut

Always start off with shorter swims and increase the length over time as you become more experienced and tolerant of the conditions. This way you always swim within your limits. 

Know Your Personal Limits

You should stop your swim if you start to get cold or you feel yourself tiring, both signs that your core temperature could be dropping. Stop before you are too cold as this could be dangerous.

Make sure you have some warm clothes waiting for you on shore as you will get colder once you exit the water as blood returns to your arms and legs. A hot drink at the end of a swim is a great idea but avoid alcohol as even if it feels warm it will actually cause you to lose heat.

Here is a quick recap of the above guidelines: 

Read our Blog on the The Benefits of Cold Water Swimming

If you are taking a visit to the coast read our Beach Safety Guideselkie recycled swim robes

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