Open water swimming is a great workout, whether you’re training for a triathlon or a swim event. It’s important to be aware of some of the risks associated with open water swimming. These risks don’t mean you should be afraid to venture out there, but sometimes being prepared and taking precautions can make all the difference.
The following are some tips to help you stay safe when swimming in the open water:
- Never swim alone.
When you head out into the open water, make sure you go with a partner: someone who’s looking out for you, and in turn, you’re looking out for them. The lifeguard isn’t your “swim buddy.”
- Get comfortable in open water.
Gradually build your confidence swimming in open water. It’s ok if you don’t feel “ready” right away – allow yourself time to practice, whether that’s in the pool or closer to shore. Begin where you feel at ease, and practice going further out from your base at a pace that works for you. With more experience comes an increased level of comfort.
- Know the conditions.
Check the water temperature and weather conditions prior to heading out. It’s not safe to swim in lightning and thunderstorms. If the weather turns, make your way back to shore. If water temperatures are cold, choose an appropriate wetsuit and limit your time in the water.
- Understand currents.
The ocean is full of uncontrollables, including rip tides, other currents and waves that may sweep you away from where you planned on swimming. Choose a static “beacon” on the shore to make sure you aren’t unknowingly being swept away.
If you do get caught in a riptide, don’t panic. Calmly swim parallel to shore to get out of it. Don’t try to swim against, or fight the current, as this can cause further panic and exhaust you.
- Stay calm.
As mentioned above, never panic. If you start feeling uncomfortable, the very first step is to stay calm. Alert your swim buddy, and calmly swim back to where you feel comfortable.
- Check your surroundings.
Make sure you don’t inadvertently swim too far away from your swim buddy or the shore. As fun as it is to cruise around in the water, make sure you observe your surroundings and have eye contact with your swim buddy. Having a static point where you can measure how far you’ve swum is important so you save enough energy to swim back to shore too.
- Take a break.
If you start feeling exhausted or uncomfortable, take a break. Either tread water, or calmly make your way back to shore.
- Know your underwater creatures.
It’s always good to know what creatures to look out for – i.e. steer clear of jellyfish and other poisonous fish. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to look, but not touch anything; leave the delicate sea floor the way you found it.
- Have a plan.
Before heading out, it’s always good to have a basic plan – where you plan to swim, how far you plan to go, and how long you plan to be in the water. It’s always smart to alert someone on shore of your swim agenda for the day. Even though you have a swim buddy (never swim alone), check in with the lifeguard before heading out.
- Choose the right equipment.
Choosing the right equipment for your open water activity is important. If swimming, we recommend using swim goggles and the appropriate swim attire for getting a workout.
- Relax and have fun.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re swimming in the open water. While it’s important to be prepared, don’t forget to have some fun too – and relax! Trust your preparation, and if ever you feel like you’re getting uncomfortable, remain calm and head back to shore.
Stay safe when you’re in the open water – and always remember rule #1 – never swim alone.
At all times members are responsible for their own safety and must apply common sense.
Cycling in groups: etiquette and safety
1. Cycling in a group helps cyclist in many ways – safety in numbers, benefit of wind resistance, increased average speed etc. but cyclists should remember the following points to ensure safety within the group.
b. Holding the line – cyclists in a group need to cycle in a steady, straight line, holding the wheel of the rider ahead, so that they are predictable to both the other riders and other road users.
c. Sudden braking and changes of speed are dangerous in a group and should be avoided.
d. A cyclist should be scanning at least two to three riders ahead at all times – by doing this a rider will be aware of any problems further up the line.
e. A cyclist should always shoulder check before changing position.
f. For narrow roads or where there is other traffic, the group may need to single out and it is essential that this is done smoothly maintaining the existing speed – an agreed system should be used each time e.g. inside rider moves ahead to allow the outside rider slip in behind.
g. Cyclists within a group should never tailgate or overlap wheels (ride with half their front wheel alongside the back wheel of the rider in front) with other riders as this allows no reaction space if something happens unexpectedly.
h. A group conserves energy and maintains pace by regularly switching the lead riders, but it is essential that this changeover is done smoothly – the rider moving to the front must keep the speed of the group and must be careful to move gradually into position at the head of the line. The rider leaving that position, must on the other hand, ease off, to allow the new leader come up alongside while maintaining the group speed. This momentary easing off allows that rider a short rest before slotting back in to tail the group.
i. BEWARE of half-wheeling. Half-wheeling is the action by an individual, when he or she rides beside another rider and is always pushing the pace so that they are just enough ahead and the other rider(s) feel like they are constantly trying to catch up. Half-wheeling by pulling ahead can cause the groups pace to rise because as the rider being half-wheeled tries to pull level and the half-wheeling rider will often increase the pace. The differences in pace will radiate through the group forcing riders in the group to work harder to maintain the pace or alternatively result in the group becoming fragmented.
j. When riding downhill where speed increases are expected, it is advisable to spread the group slightly and allow greater gaps between riders. Riders will have clearer view of the road ahead and to minimise the risk of a collision with another rider.
2. When cycling in a group, whether for leisure, training, race or event, the Rules of the Road ALWAYS apply.
3. Cyclists should NEVER cycle more than two abreast on the public roads and should always be prepared to single out to facilitate the flow of traffic and other road users while remaining aware that singling out on a narrow road might invite dangerous overtaking.
4. Limit the group , consider keeping the group to 20 riders of similar standard. Larger group sizes may make it difficult for other road users to safely pass.
5. As part of a large group on the road, cyclists should always be ready to split into smaller groups of 6 to 8 riders, with approximately one hundred metres between sub groups, to facilitate overtaking traffic.
6. Cyclists should be conscious that leaving larger spaces between riders to the side or in front is frustrating for following traffic as the length of the group is widened and lengthened – one metre to the side and fifty centimetres to the front are good working measures.
7. Cyclists should also be conscious of organizing group spins at times and on routes that will not inconvenience other road users unduly (e.g. rush hour).
8. While part of a group, cyclists should remember at all times that they are responsible for their own safety and should stay fully aware of their surroundings both in and outside the group.
9. It’s essential when riding in a group to be constantly aware of the changing environment and the verbal and non-verbal messages of other riders and road users around you. Listening to audio devices or a mobile phone should be avoided at all times. Such devices are a distraction and inhibit your ability to hear and respond to verbal and non- verbal cues.
10. Cyclists should not allow themselves to get drawn into arguments or disputes with other road users – it pays to remember that there are examples of both good and bad cycling, as there are good and bad driving and lost tempers never accomplish any outcomes, but can cause dangerous situations.
11. Cyclists should always apply a “leave no trace” ethos when cycling and should keep any food wrappers, gel packaging or empty bottles etc. until they can be disposed of.
Winter Safety Tips
- Winter clothing essentials: waterproof jacket, thermal bib tights, thermal/wicking undervest, windproof gilet/jersey, overshoes, windproof/thermal gloves, clear glasses.
- Winter clothing optional: thermal socks, under-helmet cap/headband, scarf, winter-specific shoes/boots.
- Be safe and be seen with front and rear lights and any other hi vis reflective gear.
- Fit a saddle bag with your puncture repair kit so as to free up space in your jacket pockets for nutrition and extra warm layers.
- Check and replace worn tyres. Change to wider tyres for comfort and check tyre pressure for grip to the road.
- Be sure to maintain, clean and protect bike. Clean and protect chain with wet lube.
- Fit Mudguards.
- Be sure to carry adequate nutrition including warm food and drink before, during, and after session.
- Cyclists should be ready to split into small groups of 6-8 people to allow the safe passing of vehicles.
Leader Safety: In Case of an Accident
Some of the initial steps the leader may take if there is an accident.
- Direct traffic around and away from the site of the accident.
- Get all cyclists in the group off the road.
- If required, call 999 or 112.
- Details of the emergency
- Give location
- Follow the instructions from emergency operator
- In the event that the rider needs to attend hospital, one of the leaders or responsible adults goes with them.
- Contact their emergency contact person.
- Get details of the accident from the other riders.
- Complete an incident/accident report form.
Fitting in a run at night often means running in the dark and that means being extra cautious.
If you must run in the dark or even prefer it, here are a few night road rules to live by:
- Be aware.
It’s important to pay attention to your surroundings. Simply being aware can be the difference between minutes or seconds of preventing an accident, especially in the dark when it becomes harder to distinguish objects from people.
- Run a familiar route.
Establish the routes you’re comfortable running and switch it up every other night to keep it random.
- Carry an ID on you.
Whether it’s a driver’s license in your pocket or an ID bracelet, it will prove useful if first responders need to identify you and contact loved ones.
- Run against traffic.
Facing traffic as you run not only provides drivers a clear view of what’s ahead of them, but also gives you a visual of oncoming vehicles in case you need to make any last-minute maneuvers.
- Run with a buddy or join a running group.
As cliché as it may sound, safety is truly greater in numbers.
- Bring a mobile phone.
A phone can prove useful for utilizing special tracking apps and/or simply to call someone when you’re in a pinch. With a push of a button on your phone, personal safety or tracking apps can send an emergency message or calls designated friends who can respond and even locate you on a map.
- Ditch the headphones.
Or if you must listen to music, leave a single earbud in so the other ear can hear for oncoming cars, trains—and even people.
- Wear reflective or brightly coloured clothing.
These days there’s plenty of neon, light-reflecting run apparel and shoes designed for the night-conscious runner. Wearing a headlamp also helps to light the way and works to alert vehicles of your presence before it’s too late.