If you live in England, British Triathlon, Swim England and RLSS UK have collaborated to produce guidance on how to approach open water swimming in the current climate. The document was produced in response to the government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, released on Monday 11th May. Here is a summary...
PLEASE SWIM SAFE
Firstly, while the government permits open water swimming, you should ask yourself whether you think it is a socially responsible thing to do. There are inherent dangers, which could cause increased risk or pressure to the NHS and emergency services. If you are new to open water swimming, we don’t advise that you go open water swimming outside of an operated and supervised venue which has a safety crew.
If you do decide to go open water swimming:
- Never swim alone.
- Adhere to social distancing requirements throughout your swim, including arrival, changing and post-swim.
- Let someone in your household know where you are, what you are doing and expected time to return.
- In terms of sea swimming, there are no RNLI lifeguards operating presently. Volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, but those partaking in sea swimming must understand the risks and take the necessary steps to keep themselves safe. This will help reduce the demand on lifeboat crews and other emergency services.
- We recommend that you swim in an operated and supervised open water venue. You can find a list of venues here: https://www.sh2out.org/safe-venues/search?. Some venues will require pre-booking to enable them to maintain social distancing at their venue and while swimming.
- When open water swimming, cover cuts and abrasions, however minor, with sticking plasters. Don’t swim if you have deep cuts.
IF YOU DECIDE TO SWIM IN OPEN WATER THAT IS NOT OPERATED OR SUPERVISED
You should carefully plan the location based on the following:
- Check out local knowledge and advice (speak to clubs or other swimmers).
- Make sure you have permission to swim at your chosen spot.
- Look out for safety signs and online information/feedback.
- Avoid weirs, locks and other structures.
- If a sign says “no swimming” and/or “danger” don’t swim there.
- Think about the water quality – is the water potentially polluted (e.g. looks dirty, is a strange colour or smells) or has any pipes running into it. Don’t swim in stagnant water.
- Think about the water temperature and the weather.
- Be aware of tides and currents. A strong current can easily prevent you from reaching where you want to swim, or it could pull you away from your planned exit point.
For all open water swimming below 20 degrees, the wearing of a full-body wetsuit is recommended. Wetsuits provide insulation, improving cold water tolerance and extending the time you can remain (comfortably) in the water. They also increase buoyancy so that, even when static, you will float.
We also recommend the use of a tow float. A tow float is a brightly coloured, inflatable bag that is attached to you via a line/waistband. Benefits include increased visibility, making it easier to identify you, therefore, making recovery easier.
Goggles are recommended as they allow you to see underwater obstructions.
A high visibility swim cap again can help with being seen, which can be important if there are boats passing by.
Ensure you take a towel, warm clothes (including hat and gloves) and a hot drink for after your swim.