Swimming Safety 101: Essential Tips for Open Water Swimming

Open-water swimming is a low-cost, healthy, and exhilarating activity that keeps you fit and brings you closer to nature. But when swimming in open water, caution should always be exercised – your swimming safety is the number one priority. So here are our essential tips for staying safe when open water swimming. 

Top 14 Ways to Enhance Your Swimming Safety

1. Wear a wetsuit

A wetsuit is an important piece of kit for swimming safety. Getting too cold in the water can lead to hypothermia and potentially fatal consequences. There are various thicknesses of wetsuits available depending on where you are swimming and prices vary to suit all budgets. A swimming wetsuit is recommended for comfort and efficiency as they are designed specifically for swimming.

Want to swim like a pro? Here are our Top Tips for Improving Your Swimming Technique.

2. Wear a bright swimming cap

A bright swimming cap makes you easily noticeable in the water. If you get caught in a riptide and pulled out to sea, rescuers will be able to spot you much more easily if you are wearing a bright color. Swim caps also keep your hair from getting knotty, win win!

3. Always take a swim float

swim float (tow float) is always recommended when open water swimming. They are a bright color, and their main purpose is to make you more easily noticeable in the water. 

Swim floats are essentially a bag filled with air that is attached to your body and dragged along with you as you swim. Although they are not designed to be used as a buoyancy aid, they will support your weight if you need to take a rest.

4. Research conditions

Never go open water swimming in a place prone to strong currents, or big waves. Researching the wind level on the day you wish to go swimming will give you an idea of how big the waves will be.

Always put your swimming safety first and research the area you are going to. Ask around and find out from other open-water swimmers if the spot is safe. And if you have any doubts, do not enter the water. No swim is worth your life.

5. Avoid bad weather days

It is never a good idea to go open water swimming in a storm or high winds. Avoid the water if there is thunder and lightning and wait for a better day.

6. Take someone with you

One of the golden rules of swimming safety is to never swim in open water alone. It might be tempting to head out for a swim on your own when you see a beautiful lake or ocean, and you might fully trust your swimming capabilities, but there are unexpected hazards that come with being in open water.

For example, you could become suddenly ill, there could be dangerous boat traffic, or you could become injured by marine life. If you have a swimming buddy, you are far more likely to stay safe in an unexpected dangerous situation.

Love to travel? Start exploring with these 5 Unique Swimming Spots.

7. Tell someone where you are going

You and your buddy(ies) should always tell someone on dry land where you plan to go on your swim. You should also mention how long you plan to be in the water. Doing this greatly increases your chance of being rescued should the worst happen.

8. Make a plan

When it comes to swimming safety, it is good to have a plan for your swim and stick to it! This should include:

  • Where you will enter and exit the water.
  • If/when you will turn around if you are not swimming in a loop.
  • How long the swim will take.
  • How close to shore you will stay.
  • An emergency action plan for worst-case scenarios.

Your emergency action plan should include having a first aid kit nearby, knowing emergency numbers for the area, having what you need to get warm fast, and what you would do in a missing swimmer situation.

9. Know your exits

It is important to know where you will be exiting the water before you get in. Sometimes entering the water is much easier than getting out of the water, so always consider where and how you plan to do this.

10. Consider hazards

Things like sharp rocks, boat traffic, potentially dangerous marine life, and overhanging cliffs are all examples of hazards that should be considered when it comes to swimming safety. Avoid swimming in areas with these hazards, or any other hazards or dangers that make you feel worried or unsafe.

Wondering what gear you will need? We have got you covered: Jump In - 10 Pieces of Essential Kit for Wild Swimming.

11. Be prepared

Of course, you do not want to always assume the worst, and 99 per cent of the time everything will go great! But it is still important to always be prepared for worst-case scenarios.

This includes having an action plan for emergencies of all kinds, having a plan for the dive, having items to stay safe and warm, and always showing caution when open water swimming - even in places you feel very comfortable.

12. Warm up after

Hypothermia is a real risk of water activities and can lead to death if left untreated. As soon as you begin to shiver in the water, it is time to exit. Stay warmer for longer by wearing a wetsuit, not fasting all day before swimming, staying hydrated, and being ready to warm up quickly after getting out of the water.

This can include having a warm drink prepared in a thermos, getting out of your wet clothes fast and changing into dry ones, and having a big towel or dry robe/poncho to hand for when you exit.

13. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can increase your risk of cramps and other injuries when swimming. It can be easy to forget to hydrate when you are surrounded by water, but make sure to pack a water bottle and drink some before and after your swim. 

14. Stay within your limits

Do not be tempted to attempt a swim if you are not sure you are ready for it. Always show caution and be conservative; make sure you can exit if you need to and avoid challenging water conditions. Your swimming safety always comes first.

Now you have all the information you need to stay safe while open water swimming. Enjoy!

Want to take your water activities to the next level? Why not try freediving?

It is an incredible way to explore underwater and develop your fitness at the same time!