No activity is free from risk, and swimmers wouldn’t want their water free of the variables in nature – wind, tide, and constantly changing conditions are part of the magic of being outside. But every summer there are tragic deaths and accidents in water which greater understanding may have preventing. To follow on from OSS Top 10 Tips for Safe Summer Swimming, here are some more detailed tips on understanding risks, and staying safe.
If you get caught in a rip, stay calm, they won’t drag you under. Don’t try to swim against it you’ll get exhausted.
We all know the movie and TV version of drowning: shouting, waving, maybe screaming for help. This is not what happens in reality. People who are drowning:
This drowning phase lasts for 20-60 SECONDS
Further advice can be found on the RNLI website.
Swimming outdoors used to be widely accepted in the UK, including in towns and cities, before the pollution of our watercourses and the building of heated indoor pools brought swimmers indoors. Now outdoor swimming is making a comeback, and the Outdoor Swimming Society’s membership has grown from 300 in its first year (2006-7) to 27,000 today.
Knowledge of how to swim outdoors safely is emerging within the community, and we have begun to capture this knowledge on this site under the ‘survive‘ section with categories of information involving understanding rivers, understanding lakes and quarries, understanding the sea, and cold. There is even a section to answer that perennial summer media question: is the water really freezing? (See Understanding Thermoclines)
Like any outdoor activity, there are ways to swim safely, with respect for nature, your own limits and the surroundings, and ways to endanger oneself. Our ethos is that people be free to swim, but carry the responsibility for doing so safely. We believe there should be more education to enable swimmers to make sound judgements, and that scare mongering may endanger rather than save life, however well it is intended.
The Outdoor Swimming Society wants swimmers to develop common sense around water. This means arming swimmers with sound, factual knowledge to help them make their own judgements. Where there are dangers, these should be understood and signposted. It’s experience and knowledge that will help swimmers to understand the water, and the knowledge will spread. Those who are used to conditions outdoors are more able to cope when they fall in accidentally (18 people died in water after playing by the waterside in 2013).