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Ocean swimming safety

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Before entering the ocean, it is important that all members of your party are good swimmers. They should also have experience swimming in the ocean or other large bodies of water before entering the water. Otherwise, they should stay on the beach shore which can also be fun.

A crucial beach safety fact to remember and practice is to swim only where there are lifeguards. Studies have shown the likelihood of someone drowning where there is a lifeguard on duty is 1 in 18 million. When you enter the water, always go in feet first. Avoid diving.

Drowning is not the only safety hazard when swimming in the ocean. Swimming in the ocean or a large body of water is very different from swimming in a pool or most small lakes even.

Below are some other ocean safety hazards to watch out for:.
• tides and undercurrents
• unexpected changes
• water depths at drop-offs
• rocks, debris, and other hazards and obstacles
• whether there’s local marine life that sting or bite
• boats, ships, and other water crafts that may be in the water at the same time
• bad weather in the area, such as lightning or thunderstorms
• tsunami warnings

It is important, as an ocean swimmer, you know how to identify a rip tide and rip currents. While the terms are often confused, rip currents are different than rip tides. Rip tides are a type of current water where tidal water moves quickly under the surface. A rip tide is associated with the swift movement of tidal water through inlets and the mouth of estuaries, embayments and harbors.

Beach swimmers should be more aware of rip currents or powerful fast-moving water. They create a current that flows away from the beach. They move at speeds of up to eight feet per second; rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer. They are prevalent along the East, Gulf and West coasts of the U.S., as well as along the shores of the Great Lakes.

Some rip current warning signs include:
• waves are not breaking
• you see foam on the beach
• you see seaweed or discolored water being pulled from the shore

If you get caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. It is vitally important to swim parallel back to shore instead of in a straight line. Many swimmers panic and often try to counter a rip current by swimming straight back to shore – putting themselves at risk of drowning because of fatigue.

Lifeguards rescue tens of thousands of people from rip currents in the U.S. every year, but it is estimated that 100 people are killed by rip currents annually. So, Keep an Eye on Safety by following all your water safety rules whether on the beach, the lake or at the pool.