Tips, advice, information and techniques for swimming in in the ocean or lakeside beach can come in handy - even if the only stroke you know is the doggy paddle. The better you swim, the more fun you'll have in the water -- with much better chances of staying out of trouble.
Here are handful of basic swimming safety tips for lake and ocean swimming that may serve as a reminder or simply an introduction for keeping you and your family safe this summer:
Splish, splash - having fun while staying safe at the beach
• At the beach or lakeside, lifeguards are there to get you out of trouble should you experience a muscle cramp or face a threatening rip current. So it's just smart to pick a lake or beach spot where lifeguards are on duty.
• On US beaches, a flag warning system is also in place to alert swimmers to particular dangers that may be present:
A double red flag is flown to signal that the beach is CLOSED usually due to sharks or other imminent hazards,. A single red flag usually means rough surf or strong currents. A yellow flag usually advises caution only. If you see a purple flag, that means other hazardous marine wildlife is present (usually warning of jellyfish stings, but not anything as dangerous as sharks.) As you might have guessed, a green flag means... "come on in, the water's fine!"
• Needless to say, swimming in the ocean is a bit more difficult than swimming in a pool. The ocean is far more unpredictable with rougher surf and faster currents. Be ready to get knocked over by a wave or two, and with toddlers in tow always make sure to have them geared up with flotation devices.
Early in the season. when the water is still cool, your muscles will also likely stiffen or grow tired more quickly in the rough surf. As soon as that happens, retreat to the warm beach to build a sandcastle and thaw out again before attempting another dip in the ocean.
• Later in the season, when beaches officially close, it may be tempting to ignore the warnings and take a swim anyway. If that's the case, use caution and never swim alone. There is safety in numbers ...and cell phones. Just make sure someone has one handy on shore to call for help if necessary.
Although lake swimming is far safer in terms of currents and waves, lakes may pose their own hazards which can be easily avoided with a few, simple precautions.
Firstly, always remember that other activities -- such as water skiing, jet skiing, fishing or boating -- may be taking place at the same time. That's why it's good to stick to designated swimming areas to lessen the chances of what can become fatal accidents and collisions. It's also likely that a lifeguard will be on duty in a designated swimming area.
Waterproof footwear is also recommended due to any manner of sharp objects that may lie at the bottom of a lake, especially during the busy season when fish hooks, shards of glass, or metal cans can ruin an otherwise sunny day at the beach lakeside.
More about lakeside and ocean swimming around the Web:
Also just ahead, check out swimming safety tips and how to's for first-time beginners before they make their first plunge into the lake or ocean ...
STORMFAX Guide to Safe Ocean Swimming
- The basics, including how to identify lateral and rip currents, backwashes and other tips on staying safe at the beach, with related resources for learning more about the UV index and Beaufort wind scale.
Ocean Swimming Safety - Expert tips from Cape Hatteras National Park with advice and illustrations on how to escape rip tides and related summer beach safety guides.