Testing the waters: Tips for ocean swimming safety
Follow these ocean swimming safety tips for when you are out in the open water swimming.
Ocean swimming is different from swimming in a pool: You have to watch out for currents, waves and other natural dangers.
Ocean swimming basics
First things first: Strong swimming skills are essential in the ocean's unpredictable environment. Never go into the ocean if you can't swim. And never swim alone – even if you are an experienced swimmer. A swimming buddy can signal for help if needed. Also learn:
- Where to swim. Always swim in a designated ocean swimming area supervised by lifeguards. Stay close to shore so you can be seen and rescued quickly if needed.
- When to swim. Daytime is the safest time for ocean swimming. Visibility is low in early morning hours and at dusk, and predatory animals in the water tend to move closer to shore at night.
- What to do during severe weather. If you see an approaching storm, it's best to get out of the water until the storm subsides. Get out immediately if there is lightning.
Ocean swimming risks
The ocean is a complex body of water with some natural dangers. Before swimming away from shore, understand these hazards:
- Rip currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water. Instead of fighting them, swim parallel to the shore with the current, and angle yourself slowly back to land.
- Large waves are more powerful than you might think. Dive under one before it breaks. And remember: Never turn your back to the ocean when you're in the water. Rogue waves or undertow can happen at a moment's notice.
- Shore breaks happen when a wave breaks on land, which can knock swimmers down. To avoid serious injury, stay away from beaches with rocky outcroppings or a steep slope into the water.
- Inshore holes are long trenches that run parallel to the beach. They can surprise waders who are expecting shallow water. Make sure your children can swim, and stay with them in any water.
Remember: A sunny day doesn't necessarily mean great ocean swimming conditions. Check your local surf forecast before heading to the beach to know what to expect.