It’s so much fun to go to the beach during summer break! It’s hot, the kids are driving us crazy, and the best thing is to dip in the sea and just chill.
Before we begin, it’s important to say that the sea is an incredible thing, full of energy, stress releasing, calming, but its power can also be very dangerous, especially in the summer time, when the sea keeps changing, it’s hot and volatile. Because of the sharp changes in temperature currents and turbulence’s are being created, which are invisible but life threatening, and more so if you are not trained swimmers.
In this article I will address 9 things it’s important to know before you take your family to the beach, whether you are trained swimmers, beginners or can’t swim at all, and give simple rules in case you need to rescue someone from the water.
- Always swim in pairs or more
Even if you are trained swimmers, it isn’t safe to swim alone in any kind of sea!
- Always go to supervised beaches
An unsupervised beach is a deadly hazard, especially if you’re not trained swimmers and haven’t taken an open water guides course. Why do people go to these beaches? Because they are less crowded. If you made the mistake of going to one, do your own current check: Throw a small float into the water (it could even be a child’s inflatable arm float). When it is 20m away from shore keep track of it for one minute. If it moves by more than 10m in that time, there’s a strong undertow, and you are putting yourselves and your family in grave danger. If there’s no undertow and you decide to go in, don’t get in over your waist, and constantly check if you can see your things on the shore to make sure you’re not drifting.
- Always have an open water float
Anyone who takes their family to the beach should have one of those in their bag, just like you must have water or sunscreen or a mat. The float inflates within 7 seconds and in case of an emergency can be attached to the waist and keep two people afloat.
- Swim slowly
If you are trained swimmers and you feel you have entered a vortex, one of the most important things is just to swim for shore in a slow pace. It’s important not to try to reach a specific point on shore, but out of the water in general, because you may have drifter hundreds of meters away from your point of entry. Most times the current will just take you out of the vortex within two minutes, and you will be able to swim for shore, but it can take between 20 seconds and 30 minutes until you are out, so it’s important to conserve your strength and not fight the current.
- Go with the flow
If you are caught in a strong undertow and you feel that you swim but move backwards instead of forward, or you don’t move at all – if you are swimmers, try to float with your head in the water star shaped. Whenever a wave passes you, breath. Once you feel you’re moving a little, try to swim again but keep a slow pace and let your body go with the flow, even if that means you drift to the middle of the ocean. Conserve your strength! Someone will see that you are missing and come get you or send help.
- If you can’t beat them, join them
Many parents sit in the shade while their children go alone to the waterline to fill up their pails or play. At best this might end with a hysteric parents running to get them, and at worst…
When going to the beach the parent must always keep in front of the child, in the water and not on the shore. Stay with your children on the waterline, or, if they go in the water, make sure you are in front of them, a little deeper than they are.
What do you do if you can’t swim? It’s obvious that parents have to know how to swim, if not for themselves, for their children. When we say you should know how to swim we mean you should be able to swim 1km, and you can learn that at any age. If you don’t know how to swim, get in until the water reaches your knees. Any deeper than that and you might fall into a hole on the bottom of the sea, you will sink in seconds and of course be in no condition to protect your child. In that case you should not go in any deeper even if there is a lifeguard on duty.
If you go into the water with two children, and that should only happen if they swim well! The parent should be only waist deep in the water, where there is no undertow, and 5 seconds away from the second child.
- Float your child first
The scariest thing on earth: You are holding your child in the water when you feel you are being swept away and can’t return. What should you do? I get a chill every time I think about this.
If you are with a child and you get into a vortex and feel like you can’t hold the child, try to have the child float on his back first. Don’t try to hold him, because within 20-30 seconds you will both be exhausted, so you need to float him first, then yourselves, and let the current take you where it will. At some point somebody will get to you, and it’s important to conserve your strength. If you’re trained, place the child on your back, holding your neck, and swim a very long breaststroke with a long, slow glide, and hopefully the current will take you out. When there are strong currents or waves, a fast swim, even for a trained swimmer, will take all his oxygen, so the long strokes with a 3-5 second glide can be helpful.
This is the correct way to make a child float:
- Drinking alcohol on the beach
A week ago, while I was teaching a course of swimming trainers about the dangers in the sea, a man came to our home-beach with a few beers. I watched him from the water, hoping he wasn’t going to drink all that and get in the water.
What happens to a man when he drinks and swims? Much like in drinking and driving, he feels he’s Michael Phelps, beyond the fact the he feels crazy hot. Especially with teenagers, when one goes in the water, they all do, even at night.
Five minutes later, in the middle of our class I saw that man waving for help from the water. The lifeguard saw his signal and got him out of the water. He put him in a chair and asked him not to get in the water again. If there hasn’t been a lifeguard on duty and swimming trainers around, that man would have drowned for sure.
- Helping a drowning person
You are trained swimmers and you see someone calling for help – What should you do? The most dangerous thing is to swim to them immediately. If there’s lifeguard on duty you should send someone out to get him, because he will know exactly how to enter the water and approach the drowning person. If there’s no lifeguard on duty, you should send someone to get help and only then get in the water to try to get to the drowning person. Do so only if he is within your reach and the water get no higher than your waist. When you get to him don’t try to drag him out but instead try to calm him down and have him float on his back, and then slowly swim to shore. It’s important to note that that in open water trainers course trained professionals work on dragging another swimmer, and they all experience extreme difficulty in doing so. Dragging another person without a float is hard, dangerous and near impossible in a high sea. If you are not trained swimmers and you go in to save someone else, odds are you won’t be able to get him to safety and you will both drown, and this is why under no circumstances you should attempt a rescue in a high sea.
- If you go into the see, it’s highly recommended to understand its advantages and dangers.
- Take an open water float with you (can be purchased in any Water World center or dive store).
- Keep your children close, and if they go into the water, always stay in front of them.
- Try not to drink alcohol, because you will have a hard time controlling your capabilities.
- Always go to a supervised beach.
- And the most important recommendation: Take an open water swimming course, where you can learn about the sea, the currents, how to tackle the waves, when not to go in and mainly how to have fun and keep yourselves and your families safe.