How to stay safe when swimming in the sea
Outdoor swimming is rapidly growing. It’s a challenging sport with a great community hosting events and socials around the sport. It’s exhilarating, with people seeking the natural high that can come with swimming in icy open waters. These qualities have led memberships of the Outdoor Swimming Society to soar to over 70,000 in the past two years. Just a decade ago there were only a few hundred members.
But part of the reason the sport is so enticing is that it’s challenging and comes with a hint of danger. When you’re swimming in open waters, like a lake or the sea, there’s nowhere to stop and take a rest. You need to be in peak condition to carry on. With the right amount of training and practice - and with the right medical and safety teams in place at events - the risks are small, yet they are still there.
Beginners need to know what they are and how to manage them to enjoy outdoor swimming activities.
Learn about tides and currents
This information isn’t just helpful for open-water swimmers. It can also save lives on a beach-day out.
If you’re swimming in open water, the first rule is to respect it. Rarely a year passes without news of a death as the sea pulls someone out into unforgiving waters and they cannot get back.
You need to know the weather forecast and warnings from the coastguard who will tell you whether swimming is appropriate that day. These warnings are serious. It doesn’t matter if you’re a strong swimmer or not, a red flag is a no-go.
If you get caught in a rip, don’t fight the current. This will lead to panic and exhaustion which is how deaths occur. Remain calm and keep your eye on a shore landmark to establish whether you’re in a rip current. If you can’t stand, try to swim out of the current at a 90-degree angle, parallel to the beach, for about 20 metres to get out of the rip current. Then you can swim back to the beach.
Always check the tide times. The middle hours of the tide have the strongest and fastest flows so you can plan around this.
The rules of open-water swimming state if the water temperature is 20°C or above, swimmers should not wear a wetsuit. If the temperature is between 19.9°C and 18°C, swimmers can choose to wear a wetsuit or not. If the water temperature is between 17.9°C and 16°C, wetsuits are compulsory. If the temperature drops below 16°C, swimmers should not compete.
This is to avoid the dangers of hypo/hyperthermia, depending on if the water is too cold or hot respectively. With swimming, hypothermia is more common, particularly in open water which can fall below 10°C in the UK. Some people enjoy the rush they get with swimming in cold water but the risk of hypothermia increases which can cause death.
When swimming in the sea, it's important to stay safe, take breaks and rehydrate when you need it, don’t go too far away from the shore, and always be prepared.
Maru’s swimwear is perfect for a day of open water swimming. Our sleek, colourful costumes, offer the best comfort and fit for unrestricted movement, allowing you to swim your best. Take a look at our design options on our website today.