7 ways to keep it safe at the beach and in the open water

Swimming is a great sport and swimmers are a unique breed.  Swimmers train hard and work through all sorts of adversity to reach their goals. Being a swimmer offers many privileges that non swimmers don’t enjoy.  Swimming freely in the water outside of swim practice at the beach, lake or river is especially cool.  Swimmers make excellent surfers, body surfers, and water skiers – after all being able to swim effortlessly makes it easier to pick up these and other related sports.

But safety has to be put front and center when hitting the water outside of the controlled environment of the swimming pool.  Here in Southern California over the past week we’ve been rocked by two horrible incidents – one fatal.  A shark attack in Manhattan Beach nearly took the life of veteran open water swimmer Steven Robles has frightened many along the coast, serving as a reminder that even experienced open water swimmers can face unforeseen dangers.  Days later, veteran waterman and Newport Beach lifeguard Ben Carlson drowned while making a late afternoon rescue in big surf and strong currents.  Each of these horrible situations serve as reminders that even the best, most experienced swimmers can face tragedy in the open water.

With this in mind, don’t avoid the ocean or other open water environments, but don’t be blasé to potential risks.  Don’t be mistaken that because you’re able to dominate on 10 x 200 fly repeats you’re ready to charge the 15 foot waves at the famed Wedge in Newport Beach.  Respect the open water, learn from veterans and take time to assess the environment for hazards and risks.  Knowing you limits and taking time to learn how to manage you skills in the dynamic water environments can make your times out there ‘epic’.

A few things to consider:

Never swim, bodysurf or surf alone

Be VERY careful when jumping into unknown waters

If you’re not familiar with a beach, ask the lifeguard – conditions change in minutes.

Monitor the weather forecast and tide charts.

Start slow and build up to longer distances & bigger waves.

Always have a safety plan in mind.

Keep safe and have a blast this summer.


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8 years ago

Back around 1970 I was coaching swimming and water polo at San Diego State and more than a couple times I took the boys out at Boomer Beach in La Jolla to swim in monster waves, too big to catch but fun to experience. In hindsight this was stupid on my part, but I’m sure it made a lasting memory for most of the guys.

About Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis is a freelance commercial, sport and lifestyle photographer based in San Diego.  Mike began making photos in the early 80’s and immersed himself in all aspects of the photographic arts.  Mike’s professional career in in photography began after 12 years working within the United States Olympic movement; he …

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