I’ll start on an uncharacteristically low note. Last year a guy that I knew drowned in the sea. He wasn’t a weak swimmer, quite the reverse. In fact he competed in triathlons. It brought home to me how careful that you have to be and how much respect that nature deserves. So I thought that I’d put together a little list of all the precautions to keep myself swimming safely. These apply especially when I’m in unfamiliar locations, like this gorgeous beach on the Galician coast.
- I often swim alone so always tell someone where I’m going and how long I expect to be. Some advice out there says that you should always have a buddy. But heck. I like to be alone. It’s rare anyway that there’s no-one around when I’m in the water so I could always call for help from a random stranger.
- I heed weather conditions and sea conditions, using not just the forecast but my eyes too when I get to a spot. If it doesn’t look safe I stay out of the water.
- I look for whether a beach has rips that have the potential to drag me off to see Neptune and his fishy friends. Google how to spot them and how to get out of them if you come unstuck. A calm spot in an otherwise wavy sea is a potential danger zone.
- I follow any advice about where and when to swim. I don’t chance it. Sometimes hazards might be invisible, for example dangerously high levels of contamination.
- When it gets colder I’m mindful that hypothermia can set in. As temperatures dip I stay in the sea for shorter and shorter periods. I make sure that I have adequate clothing to put on after a dip so that my core temperature doesn’t drop.
- I watch out for obstacles such as sailing boats, trawlers and jet skis that could do me damage. I have a visible buoyancy aid that I wear in danger areas.
- I test the conditions For example when I’m off a beach I swim just a little way out. Then I check that I can get back into land. I repeat this frequently as I venture further from the shore.
- I heed what the locals are doing and where they are swimming.
- I always wear swim shoes. Okay it’s probably not going to save my life but it does stop damage from sharp objects or stingy things like weaver fish that might be hiding under the surface.
- I mostly wear a wetsuit to protect from seal nibbles and jellyfish stings.
So there you have the tips I follow. Sure no activity is risk free but we can’t wrap ourselves completely in cotton wool. Nevertheless I hope that I take enough precautions to keep myself safe.