Monday, June 26, 2017

Respect the Water-it can be your paradise- Water Safety Awareness should be every week-

"Life is filled with certain obligations and responsibilitites, but none more basic, primal or important that the responsibilities we have to ourselves and each other" 

Having respect and understanding for the water and our summer "swimming pool" where we all spend our days is vital for our safety. 
A swimming pool has rules, no jumping, no diving in the shallow end and no running poolside-all these rules are there for your safety-lifeguards are there to watch you. 

In the sea, rivers and lakes-most times you can be on your own or with a small group. 
So you need to imagine how each body of water, every time you swim also has rules-
though not all written they should be known for your safety.

I have lived my entire life near the sea-from a very young age-we were given RULES of where to swim and where not to go. 
Starting with Irish Water Safety Association from the age of 6 onwards to courses in survival and safety where we learned to undress and rescue in the sea-we learned to be able to tow each other to shore. What a skill to learn as a child. Adults should do drills with their children on how to manage an emergency at the beach or remote. 

As children we lived our lives on the beach from morning to night-we always always told where to swim and where not to swim, to stay in groups, to make sure someone watching-even though we were very young I remember knowing when and how the water acted and reacted. 

As a swimmer, I have been at the most dangerous risk areas in the sea. 
 I have experienced the sea at it's greatest, it's most powerful and it's most beautiful. 
Despite having taken on some of the greatest challenges in Open Water including the Round Ireland Relay and the Bering Strait Relay-I hold the greatest of respect for the sea. As a swimmer before you get into the water-we have a responsibility to ourselves and those we swim with and the crews and teams we work with to be the best we can be.

The Blasket Sound-the water here is the most confused water 
Coastal areas and my location, Dingle bay and surrounding beaches are mostly tidal, some face South and some face North. Some beaches like Coominole and Cloghar, I would never ever ever nor would I ever promote swimming off them or near them-the tidal flows are huge. I believe in old fisherman’s tales of power. 

We have beautiful beaches but also big big water. Ask around.  
As a child we were constantly reminded when the sand is on the surface of the water there is risk, watch the patterns of the waves, know if the tide is going in or out if the water/waves is not equal approaching the shore-think about it.  Because we are SW facing here-my swimming pool is the Atlantic-we grew up in awe of the power.

There are no two beaches alike and the one certainty is that water no matter which body it is has rules of engagement. This time of year, triathletes, open water swimmers many new to coastal swims are continuing their training on holidays which is fabulous to have people in the water. It is wonderful to see teenagers, local and visiting all excited to visit new areas and families-great to hear laughter again-Love each evening swimming and seeing teenagers talking and in the water. -Love it. We were educated growing up about the beaches-pass it on and feel no vulnerability in asking for advice.

Never take you eyes of children in the sea/lakes or rivers-

Water around the Islands of Ireland in the summer ave 12-14deg-Which in itself is quite cold.   When the air is warm the sea is warmer close to shore and when the air is cold, the rocks are cold, the sand is cold and then the water is cold. Swimming on the tides as it covers hot sand is warmer then cold sand. Swimming near to hot rocks is warmer than in the middle of deep water. 

Can the the water temperature change in the same area? 

The depth of the water and the speed of the water can cause a drop of a degree plus so a swimmer can be nice and toasty close to shore but when you swim and the depth increases in channels or bays the water drops and this can be uncomfortable and cause stress. 

What changes the conditions of the water?
Wind, Tides, Channels where boats travel, Rocks, coastal and Islands. 

If an area is tidal than you need to have a tide book-or a tide app on your phone. Each year I am reminded that many swimmers do not swim with tide books and many swimmers have never had the reason to understand that water outside an island, approaching a pier or the mouth of a bay or inside a body of rock can react and act so very differently to that inside a protected location like a shallow beach. 
For those swimmers I would say, imagine yourself tucked into the lee or the protection of the wind and then remind yourself what it feels like when you expose yourself to the force. Such is the power of the water. 

Lets look at the risks and the challenges to swimming in Open Water before you take that plunge to train or play in NEW water.

Swimming in Cold Water is not just about the distance you swim-it is about self managing the time it may take you to finish and knowing yourself as a swimmer. Know what you're capable of.

Tidal Influence can effect change on:
  • The distance you can swim 
  • The time you spend in the water
  • The effort is takes to swim the distance. 

If you are a swimmer who swims by time-for example if it takes you 20 mins to swim 1000m remind yourself that you may need 30 minutes to swim that distance in the sea. Also remind yourself that you may may swim by time and not distance if 20 mins is all that you have.
Match your route with your energy reserves and your ability. Be aware of engines and boats near you. 
Be responsible with visibility-if you are going into areas with boats. 
If you want to swim 2km and it normally takes you 40 mins-than an hour is a long time to spend if you don't have the reserves.

  • Can you keep a line of orientation when you don't have sight of the shore? 
  • Do you breathe away from the coast?
  • Can you breathe with waves hitting into your face if you only breathe one side ? 
  • Can you stay calm on the return leg of the swim if conditions change? 
  • Lot of variables on that level to think about. 

When you arrive at a new beach-before you get in... find out where you can get out of the water-I have seen swimmers jump off rocks BUT they do not have a plan to get out? 
Sometimes you can’t exit a cliff face. 

Do you know the currents and flows? 
Do you understand the power of Spring tides v. Neap tides? 
Neap tides are weaker and happen in between Full and New Moons-
Spring Tides are very powerful at certain points and these tides can carry you a distance or prevent you from crossing an area-these tides happen at 3 days give or take a Full or a New Moon. 
Impact of wind and tide or wind v. tides?
Do you know the direction you are facing and morning importantly can you breathe into the waves. 
When you swim out from a coast or a pier have you experience in deep water?
Are there boats in the area? Jet skis etc? 
Are you visible-have you a tow float. 
Are you wearing a bright colour hat.
Have you checked if you are in a working area where vessels can come in and out. 
Do you know the depths of the water? 
Temperatures can drop dramatically over deep patches of water. 
Can you exit the water safety possibly cold and tired?
Don't jump off a rock unless you have a clear exit. 
Can you walk out over the surface of rocks without shoes-? 
Can you exit the water in a cold state on a ladder? 
Can you swim in a confined space which allows you safety? if it means swimming over and back do so-rather than swimming out a 1000m and have to swim back
If you get tired and stress do you have a plan?

If you get into difficulty always keep the back of your head to the waves and protect your mouth and breathing. lean backwards into the water and protect your airways. Stop, breathe, think and act. If you can float stay with the swim and breathe. 

Fast moving, Rain, Speed, Reed, Weeds, Weirs, Entry point and Exit point, Depth and Bridges, Debris.

Rivers are a different animal. 
Do you have a secure entry and exit point? 
If you are swimming distance and time have you checked out IF or where you can get out of the water? 
Do you have a knowledge of flows in a river? 
If there is rain does the river increase it’s power and if caught have you done a visual plan of an exit point lower down than your planned exit?
Have you tried to exit the river at other locations in the unlikely event of an incident? . 
Can you return to your car via the shore if lower down than your planned exit point? 
Do you know how the river reacts after rain or a storm?
Can you be trapped under bushes and trees?

If you are a swimmer who swims by time-30 mins max-remind yourself that the 30 mins in a pool may not equal the same distance covered in the sea. make your route match your ability and the conditions. If it takes you 20 mins extra to cover 2km in tough conditions -have you the extra 20 mins in your reserve. 
Can you keep a line of sight when you don't have sight of the shore? 
Do you breathe away from the coast?
Can you breathe with waves?
When you arrive at a new beach-before you get in... find out where you can get out of the water-I have seen swimmers jump off rocks BUT they do not have a plan to get out? 
While you are thinking if you get into difficulty always keep the back of your head to the waves and protect your mouth and breathing. lean backwards into the water and protect your airways. Stop, breathe, think and act. 


Lakes are another body of water which really do require your attention. 
Lakes can be still bodies of water or they can have flows depending on rivers flowing into them. I am not a fan of lakes. 
  • Location is vital to understand- one of the major thoughts I would think is that regionally the names of lakes can differ from that of it's official names for rescue services -know where you are.  
  • If you plan an adventure -know the GPS co ordinates for the location in the unlikely event of conditions changing.
  • Do NOT swim into the centre of lakes in remote conditions -if you have fog likely to drop. Exiting the centre of a lake in foggy conditions is near impossible.  
  • Check if you have phone coverage. 
My suggestions to choosing a location-especially for a distance swim and if you are new-
  • Always the check weather forecast
  • Always understand the tides and the time of the tides. 
  • Every 2 weeks there are spring tides, these tides are fast and strong. 
  • Familiarise yourself to the location and-ask local knowledge always taking your own experience into account. -remember the lakes/beaches may not have names that are recognisable to others. 
  • Check if you have phone coverage at location-crucial 
  • if training in a remote location take a GPS coordinate 
  • If training alone-always phone a friend giving them your entry and exit time-
  • Remember to phone to confirm when you are out of the water. 
  • Swim parallel to the shore and ensure you have an exit plan. 
  • Swimming in cold water only requires you to be in water deep enough to stand up in-you do not need to challenge your capabilities beyond that.
  • Check if it is tidal, flows, currents and rips. 
  • Ensure you have shore visual at all times and your exit point in visual at all time. 
  • Have sugar in the car-fueling the recovery.
We are an island surrounded by water.. get out enjoy but remember to look after ourselves, look after each other and mostly keep in mind that the most predictable thing about the water is it's unpredictability. 

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