In many ways swimming in the ocean can be seen as a highly desirable and exiting activity. In means that you get to explore the fantastic natural location, it means you get to experience swimming among fishes and wildlife, you get to witness incredible views, enjoy the waves, and it’s all incredibly good for you as well. But at the same time it is also a danger, and if you swim too far out without having a nearby lifeguard on watch, or without friends to get help, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble.
Here we will look at the realities and the dangers of ocean swimming and why it’s so important to be careful.
Currents are a danger that most of us are familiar with, but perhaps that we don’t always give the respect they deserves. While strong swimmers should be able to swim against the tide, for others this can be enough to drag them out into the ocean and if we aren’t paying attention it can be easy to drift out unawares. Apart from anything else a strong tide simply creates more work for us and it’s easy to become tired fast when swimming against it. The most dangerous currents are ‘rip currents’ which hit the shore in a sideways motion before dragging everything back to sea. These are worst at high tide.
Waves can be a danger if they force you under the water or if they slam you against rocks, and it’s important to pay careful attention to the weather while swimming and attempt to pre-empt any sudden changes in the conditions.
Cramp in our calf or elsewhere in our leg can cause a normally confident swimmer to suddenly be rendered limp and start to sink. The combination of the cold, the exertion, the perspiration and the dehydration can all make cramping a very real threat even for those who don’t normally suffer. To avoid cramp, ensure to drink lots before going swimming, and to try to stock up on electrolytes such as sodium (salt) and potassium.
The temperature of the sea can make swimming more difficult and elevate your heart rate. This then puts you at more risk of cardiac arrest, stroke, or dangerous immune responses.
Jagged rocks can sprout out of the ocean at any point and it can be hard to spot them before we swim into them or catch ourselves on them. Even a mild injury can be enough to make swimming difficult or to attract the wrong kind of attention, whereas you can more seriously bash your head or neck. Swim gently, and wear a water suit or aqua socks to avoid jagged rocks beneath the surface.
While attacks and stings are rare, they do happen and they are a danger depending on where you are swimming. A jellyfish sting for instance can be highly unpleasant, or worse lead to paralysis or anaphylactic shock. To avoid being stung or attacked, research the area you are swimming and stay within the allocated areas for swimming. Try to swim in such a way that you avoid looking like a seal or other natural prey of sharks if you are in shark territory.
Weeds, vines and long grasses can tangle around your legs and arms weighing you down and making swimming difficult. Try to void swimming to dark patches of water which often denote thick weeds underneath.
While it’s not life threatening, sun burn is a real threat in the sea which not only reflects and magnifies the rays of the sun, but also washes off sun block and creams. Be sure to come out regularly and top up on your products, and consider investing in a waterproof sunblock.
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