Open water swimming is intensely rewarding but comes with obvious risks. Sea swimming is at the riskier end of the scale due to the ever-changing conditions. A location you may consider ‘safe’ to swim one day may not be the next.
As an open water swimmer, you are responsible for your own safety. Gathering information on potential risks and hazards is gradual process, you can do this both prior to and upon arrival at your location - Ask yourself is it safe for me to swim? Do your own risk assessment of the area you are choosing to swim.
Here is some useful information to help you choose a ‘GOOD’ swimming spot:
Before you go:
1. Aim to swim at a beach that is lifeguarded. If you have never been to the location, speak to the lifeguards - let them know of your plans and most importantly take their advice! (Be aware that they are there to manage the main swimming and surfing areas).
2. Have a look at where other people are swimming. Ask the locals, see if there is a local swimming group (formal or informal – many have social media pages or groups) Aim to go with other people.
3. Check the weather forecast and tide timetables. Take note of wave and swell height, tide timings and whether it is a neap or spring tide. (Make sure the information is local to the area you are going to!)
Useful websites to check: www.magicseaweed.com : www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/specialist-forecasts/coast-and-sea/shipping-forecast
1. Take a while to observe the water. Look at what is happening, how is the sea behaving?
2. What type of waves are they? How are the waves breaking?
3. What type of beach is it? (Sandy, shingles, pebbles, rocky, silty or muddy)
4. Are there any rocks? If so, where are they? How big are they?
5. Are you in a bay or long shore line? Is the bay sheltered?
6. Can you see any rip currents? Do you know how to spot a rip current?
7. What is the tide doing? Is the ground wet on a dry day?
8. Is there anybody else using the beach? Are there any boat users or creel pots in the water? Are the boats motorised or with sails?
Entry and Exit Points:
1. Plan your exit before you get into the water. Consider any currents, the tidal flow and wind direction? Decide how long you are going to be in the sea for?
2. Walk from your exit point up to where you would like to start from. This enables you to take a good view and identify any hazards of the stretch of sea you would like to swim.
3. A good choice for an entry or exit would be an area that you can get out of quickly if needed. Preferably with less pebbles, seaweed or rocks.
Remember to stay safe, tell others where you are going!
Where possible swim with others.
Where a brightly coloured swimming hat.
Use a tow float if you have one.
Make sure you have plenty of warm clothing even in the summer months.