There is no better way to cool yourself down after playing beach Volleyball than dipping into the cold, refreshing ocean. Calm water might look tempting to jump into, without an exception it is extremely important to follow a few guidelines. It can take less than 2 minutes to drown, so being vigilant is important.
I was quite lucky and privileged to live near a beautiful lake for most of my childhood and teen years. Each summer we would start the swimming season with my mum with the same topic: How to enjoy water without taking risks.
If you are just planning your holiday, check if the beach you are planning on going to is included on the map of Blue Flag Beaches. They promote the environment, check water quality, safety, and share useful information about beaches. Read more about the Blue Flag Programme.
Are you camping near a lake and have an incredible need to dive in headfirst as soon as you get there? Would you do a bungee jumping with a damaged rope? Because you as well might. I have seen too many people breaking their backs or necks, because for a split second they felt immortal and trusted that nothing will happen to them. It did. What they did not know, or chosen to ignore, was that there was a huge sign and a painted message telling them not to dive. In my experience it is because they are jumping from piers straight onto old wreckage and parts hidden deep in the water from old wooden structures. First off, it is important to know the features of the lakebed. If you cannot find them online, just ask anyone from the town/city you are spending your holidays in. I ask shop assistants, especially if they are older; assuming that they have children so they will be well informed what parts are safer. It may seem dramatic, but it is all too real.
The one I used to live and swim in was created by an ancient glacier. What does this mean? It simply means that as ice sheets were moving downhill, it formed a depression and gouge, which the melting ice filled in and created a lake. However, it also means that that there might be dramatic downslopes, and enormous rocks that you will have no idea exist unless you ask or check. The lake I am talking about was very unsafe, especially for kids, who just wanted to go a bit further than their parents allowed. There was 6 meters of gentle slope from the shore, safe to play and great for swimming lessons since it was only around a meter or so deep. However, after you passed the 6 meters mark you were a step away from a rapid 3 meters drop off. There was not information about this drop, only a flag you either would swim back to the shore from, or someone would help you, or you would simply drown if you started to struggle. In the pool check depth markers.
Therefore, it is very important to also know how tired you are and if you will have the strength to get back to shore, especially if there are no lifeguards around; always make sure you have a bit over half of your energy so you can make the return swim. It is better not to play the hero and therefore swim parallel to the shore.
On top of exhaustion, you can also develop cramp. The best swimmers in the world have them and it is really hard to say when it will strike; no one is immune. During stress, you lose a lot of magnesium, which helps to prevent cramps. If you have had a stressful time before going on your holidays, you might want to check your magnesium levels. Stretch before swimming!
I have experienced cramps before in the middle of the lake on more than one occasion. They appeared from nowhere. What worked for me was piercing the place of a cramp with a safety pin, I know this sounds extreme but it works. Have a clean safety pin with you; otherwise, you might get blood poisoning.
Another reason to check the lake/seabed is to make sure there are no sharp objects. Unfortunately, people for some reason find the concept of taking their rubbish with themselves very abstract and throw stuff into water. Believe me deep cut in your feet is not the best way to start your holiday. Additionally this will give you a chance to check the water temperature. Jumping straight to a lake after a long sun tanning session is rather dangerous as cold water can cause a shock to your body. You can lose control over your body, panic, have problems with breathing, and develop hypothermia. Read more about Cold Shock.
If you ask me, swimming during a thunderstorm is one of the greatest and stupidest things I have ever done. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. If you can see the light and count less than 30 seconds between hear it, the thunder is approximately 6 miles (10 km) away.
My personal preference is not to chew gum while swimming. You can not only choke, but it is also slightly disgusting. I never will or have been swimming after alcohol it is pretty obvious why it is not great idea, feet are going to the water first and always even if everyone is screaming DIVE, DIVE, DIVE, shower always after the swim. I do not like public swimming pools too much since I went once to a swimming pool and returned with chickenpox. What are the chances?!
What are your tips to stay safe in the water?