Many of you will have seen OWS back in the news again over recent weeks. Sadly this wasn’t for any of the reasons I would wish to see. Too many people have tragically lost their lives to the open water this month. With the warmer weather, the summer holidays upon us and after so many months of Lockdown restrictions, people have headed out into the water for various reasons and some have not made it back. Every life lost to the water is a life too many and a tragedy to the victims, to their friends and loved ones. My heart goes out to them all.
The press have rightly reported these tragic incidents and spotlighted the dangers of the open water. Some have also given a blanket judgement to their readers about not entering the water under any circumstances. I get it. Really, I do, and I agree that people should absolutely be aware of the dangers and risks involved in open water swimming.
That said, I do feel strongly that a different approach might be more productive and save more lives than a blanket ‘don’t do it’ recommendation. Educating people about the dangers is vital, so that they can make a more informed and less risky choice about entering the water. People will continue to get in the open water, if that’s what they’ve a mind to do, irrespective of what they might have seen or heard on the news. If they have the knowledge and understanding to do so in as safe an environment/way as possible, then lives might be saved.
As many of you know, as well as coaching Open Water Swimmers, I also teach swim school in various pools. Many of my sessions these last few weeks have started poolside, talking to children about water safety. Yes, it is part of the Learn to Swim programme but I’d have done it anyway these recent weeks in light of the news stories. Quite a few of the children had heard the news too an were already aware of what has happened. This encourages me and I hope that more parents are out there talking to their young ones about water safety, how to decide when to swim and when not to swim and the super important ‘Float to Live’ message.
If you have children or young folk in your household, please take a moment to have this conversation with them. If you are thinking of heading out to the open water in the warmer summer weather, please take a moment to read the advice from reliable sources like Outdoor Swimmer Magazine https://outdoorswimmer.com or the Outdoor Swimming Society https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/ or just get in touch for a chat. I’m always very happy to talk water safety.
Key things to keep in mind:
- Most UK open water is cold, often staying below 15 degrees even in the height of summer
- Know how the body reacts, what is ‘cold water shock’ and why what you do in the first few minutes in the water is so important
- Know the signs of hypothermia and what to do when you or someone in the water is starting to show them
- Check the weather forecast and the tide times
- Swim within your capabilities and manage your expectations – always get out knowing you could have done more rather than wishing you’d done less
- If you’re swimming somewhere new, find the local swimmers and ask about the local swim spots that are safe
- Always have lots of warm clothes and a warm drink ready for post swim, yes…. Even in the summer
- Never swim alone
Respect the water and enjoy it safely this summer and for many summers to come!