Here is a one-page summary of suggestions, suitable for framing, from some of your OMS swim pals—Tim Waud, Cindy Werhane, Marlys Cappaert, Marisa Frieder, Todd Lantry and myself—helping you to swim safely in open water this summer. Consider this to be your “pre-swim safety briefing” from Bob this year!
Some basics before you head for the water: You are your primary safety provider, so KNOW THYSELF!
- Understand that open water swimming is an “at your own risk” activity. Unlike Oregon & USMS-sanctioned swims, there are probably no lifeguards, no formal first aid coverage, and few (maybe no) on-water spotters and/or rescuers. In a rural setting, the above considerations are magnified, particularly if there is no cell phone coverage and poor or no roads
- Therefore, plan and do your swim only at a level with which you feel comfortable. Remember that there are old swimmers and bold swimmers, but not many old bold swimmers.
Before the swim: KNOW YOUR WATER!
- Select your swim site and course with care.
- Conditions: Consider weather, water quality, currents & flow, other in-water hazards, air & water temperatures, wind, and boat traffic. All should be within your capabilities!
- Infectious disease risks: Avoid areas close to cow run-off, waterfowl poop, algal blooms, and stagnant water. Check posted water quality measurements if available.
- Have a conservative plan, based on these conditions and your fitness. Be prepared to modify or abort that plan. Sometimes your best plan is not to go in.
- Be particularly cautious on your first swims in a wetsuit or in colder water than usual for you. Start slow, easy, and short.
During the swim:
- Have an emergency action plan, including…
- Carrying multiple charged cell phones (don’t rely on just one) in your float pouch(s).
- Rescue procedure (current Lifeguard/First Aid/CPR/AED certification is a big plus).
- Exit strategy: How and where will you get out, particularly if helping someone else?
- First Aid kit on shore.
- For cold water swims, bring extra towels, warm & dry clothes, and warm beverages.
- Know location of nearest hospital.
- Discuss the emergency action plan before you swim. Do not assume that everyone knows.
- Swim with buddies and check frequently with them.
- Wear a bright swim cap and a bright safety tow float with a whistle.
- Have support craft (kayak, canoe, and/or SUP) and shore support if possible.
Remember your COVID protections before and after the swim:
- Wear a mask to and from swimming
- Practice safe (six-foot minimum) social distancing. No cheek-to-cheek selfies please.
- Sneeze or cough into handkerchiefs or into your elbow.
- No horseplay, splashing, or spitting water at others. The water is not chlorinated.
- Avoid sharing water and food.
- Sanitize your hands promptly after swimming.
GOOD LUCK AND GOOD OPEN WATER SWIMMING!