Swimming in the open sea can give you a wonderful sense of freedom and adventure. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks and take some safety precautions before you set out. Here are some of the main points to bear in mind when planning your swim.
Research the location
Ideally, you should pick a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. Before your swim, let the lifeguards know who you are and ask for any advice about the conditions, tides, depths, and so on.
If there is no lifeguard at the beach, it is important to let someone else know where you are going and what time you are expected back. If you spot other people going for a swim, talk to them and find out if there are any spots to avoid. If there is a local swimming group who swim in the sea it might be worth joining them, at least until you are familiar with the area.
Check out local websites for information about tides and weather conditions. Some coastal areas have hidden pockets of dangerous currents, so keep a sharp eye out for any mention of these.
When you get there
Even if you research carefully, it’s important to make a risk assessment when you get to the beach. Check the swell and size of the waves, and look out for hazards such as semi-submerged rocks and jet skiers. If the sea is too rough or hazardous, don’t risk it.
Note if the tide is coming in or out, and where you can make a safe exit from the water that is free from rocks and seaweed. If a high tide is due to come in while you are swimming, will you be cut off from your planned exit point? Do you have a backup exit plan?
Check to see if there are any signs of rip tides. These are currents that flow from the shore back out to sea, and they can be fast and powerful. They are not always easy to spot and can change position fast, but sometimes they are evident from a lack of breaking waves on the shoreline, churning sand or seaweed or debris floating away from the shore.
If you do get caught in a rip tide, try to swim parallel to the shore instead of against it, and if the water is shallow enough to allow you to stand, use your feet to wade until you are free of the rip. If you are being carried out to sea, raise your hand and attract attention. You should always wear a brightly coloured cap to make yourself more visible.
Enter the water slowly to help you acclimatise to the temperature. The sea can feel very cold even in the middle of summer in the UK. Unless you are already a very experienced open water swimmer, it’s best to wear a wetsuit to help you maintain your body temperature and to aid buoyancy.
If you are looking for open water swimming wetsuits in the UK, please get in touch with us today.