Open Water Swim Safety

Swimming in open water, with or without a wetsuit, can be a great experience but should always be done with safety in mind.  Swimming safely in open water will give you peace of mind, making your hobby even more enjoyable.  During triathlon events, there are usually many lifeguards and safety boats in the water, making the event pretty secure.  For those who are swimming in open water on their own, practicing for a race or simply doing it for the exercise, there are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure it is a safe experience.

Open Swim With A Partner or Group.  If possible, swim with another person or people during your open water swims.  Having a partner or group not only provides a helping hand should something go wrong, but it also creates a better visual deterrent for boaters or jet-skiers.  There are power in numbers, and it is hard to miss a group of 6 or 10 swimming through the water.

Consider Safety Equipment.  In addition to providing comfort and speed, a good triathlon wetsuit provides buoyancy that can serve as almost a life jacket if you encounter a problem.  In addition to a wetsuit, other items can also help provide some added safety.  A pull buoy can create something to hold on to if you have an emergency in the water.  And don’t forget about being visible to boaters in the water with a neon swim cap .

Find Off-Peak Locations and Times.  Swimming on weekdays and early in the morning provides much quieter lakes, especially if you are swimming in urban areas.  Boaters and jet skiers are often moving across the lake at high speeds, and their eyes are trained to look for other boats, not swimmers.  Going for your swims when traffic is lowest reduces the chances of a run-in with a vessel.

Beware of Hazards.  Not only are boats hazards — the hazards can actually be beneath you in the water.  Staying away from weeds and rocks is important for your safety, as getting tangled in them can great an inconvenience and safety issue.  Stay in water that is at least 10 feet deep — more in some lakes — to avoid weeds or rocks in the lake.  While this is counterintuitive for many who think that swimming in shallow water is safest, most people who swim in lakes or rivers routinely will tell you that they prefer slightly deeper water.