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The 5 basics of open water safety

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Despite all of the benefits that open water swimming can provide, it is important to take some precautions before taking your first (and subsequent) dip in natural waters.

 

Waves, temperature, currents, weather or monsters from the deep (you never know!) can be obstacles to the practice of open water swimming. Even the best of swimmers must, therefore, and above all, properly follow the necessary safety measures, to ensure a perfectly smooth session.

 

Therefore, without further delay, Nabaiji offers you the 5 basics of safety in open water, to help you be as one with the aquatic environment and to make the most of your salty session with peace of mind!

 

 

SUPERVISION

 

Whether in the sea, river or lake, natural waters harbour more risks and dangers than swimming pools.

 

It is important to choose lifeguard-monitored bodies of water and to swim within the designated bathing areas. In winter, when supervision is not guaranteed, you should still choose locations frequented by other people or close to a rescue station.

 

If you have the burning desire to jump in the water in winter and you are not near a populated place or a lifeguard station, try to get someone to accompany you if you can, or at least let one or more of your friends know.

 

Be aware that rivers are very seldom monitored except near water sports centres. The sudden rise in water level can take you by surprise. Do not hesitate to get someone to accompany you for your open water session.

 

 

WEATHER

 

Whether good or bad, the weather is to be taken into account every time you go into the sea.

 

If the weather is nice:

 

Even if you want to swim in peace and all the weather conditions are just right, always try to swim when the water is calm and the currents are weak. This will be indicated by the green, orange or red flags at the water's edge. If this is not the case, do not hesitate to look it up online or contact the relevant authorities.

 

Sometimes it is just a question of common sense. If you swim when the waves are high or the currents are strong, besides putting yourself in danger, your session will in no way be pleasant or fruitful.

 

Also, in sunny weather, avoid the hours when the sun is at its strongest and wear sun cream or a neoprene wetsuit. Also beware in such cases of dehydration and cramping.

 

Is it very sunny? Mirrored goggles can be useful to avoid damaging your eyes with the reflections off the water.

 

If it's not nice out:

 

It is important to be aware that cold water puts stress on the body. If you enter the water too quickly and without thinking, you may run increased cardiovascular risks and hypothermia may set in. To avoid this kind of unfortunate event, ease your body into it by gradually entering the water, getting your neck, stomach and wrists wet.

 

The second option is foolproof and consists simply of wearing a neoprene open water swimming wetsuit. It will protect you from the cold and the energy losses associated with it, while giving you great freedom of movement.

 

 

HYGIENE

 

Even if they are often tested, remember that natural waters are not treated with chlorine.

 

Pollution and contamination of natural waters should be taken seriously, as the risk of infection is therefore higher. Skin, eye, ear or throat infections can be the unfortunate consequences.

 

It is therefore important to ensure good water quality beforehand and to ask the relevant authorities if it is indeed suitable for swimming. If you want to swim in natural waters on a regular basis, also talk to your doctor.

 

 

PREVENTION

 

Before you jump in the water, be sure to define a distance between two points that will act as a boundary for you, and swim along the shore, never out towards the open sea. It is also advisable to memorise the colour of the last buoy of the bathing area to make it easier for you to know where you are when swimming.

 

If you want to swim outside of the bathing areas, also keep an eye out for surfers so as not to accidentally come face to face with a board.

 

In all cases, wearing a brightly coloured swimming cap is strongly advised. It will allow other people to spot you more easily in the water, as well as from the shore in case of a problem.

 

For optimal prevention, you should also consider preparing a first aid kit. There is always the risk of cutting yourself on rocks or shells, or getting stung by a weever fish or a jellyfish. In such cases, it is better to be prepared for any eventuality.

 

 

LISTENING TO YOURSELF

 

Us sporty people often tend to be a little hotheaded... Yes, it's true!

 

Even though we must admit that this can be a big advantage when it comes to excelling in sport, it can quickly become dangerous when the circumstances do not permit.

 

In open water, it is indeed essential to remain lucid in order to be attentive to the signals your body sends. Not exceeding your personal limits and the limits of your strength is very important in natural waters because danger is everywhere.

 

Therefore, if you feel mentally and/or physically tired, or you begin to feel cramps or the cold invade you, get out of the water and finish your open water swim session at a later date.

 

Armed with all of these tips, you, extreme sportsman, are now ready to brave the elements with peace of mind!

Régis
National Swimmer & Dialogue Leader
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