Lakes, streams, rivers and ponds provide some great swimming opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. There’s really nothing as refreshing as a plunge into a clear mountain stream on a blazing hot day. Rope swings, rocks, cliffs and other structures also provide a great opportunity to get wet with your friends and family. I just cleared the path to our favorite summer swimming area at the river and put in steps down the bank. The vitality and fun times in the river are second to nothing for me.
I have also personally witnessed several water related injuries related to rope swings and lost a cousin to a cliff diving accident. So at the same time as all the summer fun, caution should be taken to keep things fun instead of dangerous. Know your abilities, water depths, currents and keep an eye on where everyone is, especially the kids and swimmers of lesser ability. In wild waters every second counts when one of the swimmers disappears. Someone who wandered off into the woods for a minute can cause a panic if not noticed. Swimming in pairs (buddy system) can help keep track of everyone. It may seem a little corny starting out but, it’s a small price to pay for having everyone safe at the end of the day and keeping an eye on each other.
Swimming rescues often result in multiple victims so make sure there are tools to help close at hand. Flotation devices such as lifejackets and other coast guard certified floats are the best bet if you are helping a tired swimmer or someone in trouble. Reach the float out to them and let them grab it. Struggling swimmers are often panicked and grab anything that comes near them to try to stay up. This results in the rescuer becoming the second victim. Once or twice a year, usually in the early spring, I hear about someone going in to rescue a dog, and the dog swims to safety and the person doesn’t make it. Use flotation devices whenever you choose to attempt a rescue.
The best rescues are often made from the safety of shore with a long pole or a rope and buoy. Reaching and throwing assists keep the rescuer safe while also providing the victim with a surer rescue.
By all means enjoy the water this summer, dive, snorkel, float and play! Just remember that a few minutes of preparation can prevent tragedies that are irreversible. Keep an eye on the kids and have a great summer!