Tag Archives: water safety

You asked, I answered – Choosing Flotation for Kids and Adults

by Mario Vittone

Mario VittoneSwimWays asked “What questions do you have for Mario?” and you answered! Not surprisingly, Swimways fans asked about flotation. Questions about pool floats and life jackets are very common, especially from parents.  So long as you understand that there are two sides to the answers – safety versus fun – you’ll be able to make good choices for your family on flotation devices for use in all bodies of water.

You see, as a serious advocate of water safety, I’m a big fan of life jackets. As a serious advocate of fun, I’m a big fan of pool floats – they are not the same thing.  You can learn more about that difference in a previous blog post, but for now, on to your questions. Continue reading

National Learn to Swim Day Coloring Contest

Coloring Contest

To celebrate the third annual National Learn to Swim Day on May 17th, we’re hosting a kids coloring contest during the month of  May!

How to enter: Simply print one of the coloring pages from the Coloring Contest page on TeachMeToSwim.com for your child to color, or you can even let your kid create his or her very own masterpiece! Scan or take a picture of their work of art and submit it via our contest page on Facebook (click on the “Color and Win” tab.)

Judging and prizes: Three winners will be chosen from the drawings entered. Two will be chosen by our staff and the other by popular vote on Facebook. Each winner will receive a prize pack containing three items of their choice: One Swim Step item, one Toy, and one Spring Float!

For more information, to check out the prizes, and to read the official rules, click here.

Sun, Sand, and Waves – Keeping Safe at the Beach Part 1

by Mario Vittone

It’s that time of year again – Beach time! To me, almost nothing is more fun than a day (or ten) of blue skies, sun, and surf. While fun, beaches have their own set of hazards. But you can manage them by doing just a few things before you set-up the chairs and point the kids at the waves. Here’s what to do:

Talk to the Guards

My first and best advice is to try to swim at beaches where there are lifeguards present. The United States Life Saving Association (USLA) estimates the chance of drowning on a guarded beach is 1 in 18,000,000.  Even so, the same rules about close supervision still apply, the surf is a whole different kind of water and beach guards are trained to handle it.

Make sure to talk to the guards before hitting the waves. Even if you have tons of experience and you know what you’re doing in the water, local guards usually know more and have been studying the waves on their beach.  They can warn you against dangerous currents or rough water, clue you in to local hazards like jellyfish or other pesky critters. The point is to talk to the pros before you go and be as aware as you can of the conditions.

I once nonchalantly asked a lifeguard, “How’s the water today?” – I wasn’t expecting anything but a casual answer.  “Good so long as you stay out of there,” he said, pointing out two serious rip currents that I couldn’t see from my vantage point.  He had a much better view from his elevated chair than I did and could easily see the rip currents that I hadn’t noticed.

Stay Safe at the Beach

Spot, Avoid, and Know How to Handle Rip Currents

All that water rolling in on the waves has to go back out. In certain conditions, that returning water is channeled into columns of seagoing water. That’s what a rip current is. Sometimes they move slow enough to barely be detected. But given the right circumstances relating to waves and beach profile, they can develop into currents moving at speeds of up to 8 feet per second – faster than anyone could possibly swim. Ranging in size from just a few feet to hundreds of yards, their pull can be to just outside of the breaking waves to over a hundred yards from shore.

As with all risks, avoiding it altogether is best. Though not always visually detectable (Again, ask that guard) stronger rip currents can give off some telltale signs. Look at the water and you may see:

  • An area of water through a surf zone that is a different color than the surrounding water
  • A break in the incoming pattern of waves – creating a smooth patch of water*
  • Seaweed or debris moving out through the surf zone
  • Isolated turbulent and choppy water in the surf zone

*Many assume the calm water at the beach is the safest place to swim, but be aware that the safe looking water may just look that way.

If you are caught in a rip current, the primary thing to do is to stay calm and relax. Swim slowly and conservatively parallel to the shoreline or relax, practice your best float or treading water technique and let it carry you out past the breakers until it slacks. Signal towards shore for assistance by raising an arm or waving, but stay calm. Don’t struggle against the current.

Contrary to myth – rip currents are not “undertow,” a misleading term. They will not pull you under the water. So long as you can tread water or float you will be safe until you can escape the flow and head back. When you head back in, do so at an angle to the shoreline. Again, maintain a slow and relaxed pace until you reach the shore or assistance has arrived. If swimming at a guarded beach ─ and you should be ─ they will most likely have seen you and will be on their way out (or watching carefully).

(Discuss rip currents and how to deal with them with your children. In fact, make them read every page of www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov and write you a report!)

Buddy Rules Apply

No one, not even experienced and strong swimmers, should swim alone. If that is important in pools (and it is) then it’s vital in open water. Personally, I don’t advocate even knee-deep wades into the surf line if you’re alone. In all but the most sloping and gentle beach, the bottom is a mystery at times and you can find yourself swimming when you didn’t intend to – like in the video below:

Have you had a close call at the beach with rough water or a rip current? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below – and if you have any questions at all feel free to ask there too.

Stay tuned for Part II where we’ll take on the sun, the sand, and things that sting. Until then, stay safe out there!

Click here to read the second part of this series.

What’s in Store This Year From Water Safety Expert, Mario Vittone

by Mario Vittone
Mario Vittone

Welcome to another season of safe swimming and fun at A Water-Full Life! This is my third year writing water safety advice and tips for parents at Swimways.com. I’m really looking forward to this year because we’ve decided to change direction and head to the beach and beyond.

We know you won’t only be in the back yard pool and wanted to give you safety tips for all destinations. I’ll give you my best safety tips for trips to the beach; what to watch for in the surf and the sand. I’ll give you a checklist and good advice on how to take your family on boating adventures while on vacation. You’ll get my thoughts on parasailing, life jacket use, fishing trips, sun safety, and how to avoid and handle jelly fish and other things that sting. We’re even going to cover cruise ships and help you stay safe at sea.

We know that fun in the water is more than just backyard pools and this year we are going to help you and your family be safe no matter where you are this summer. And something else is new for this year’s blog – video! I’ll take you to the beach to show you a rip current develop; we’ll go on a charter boat and show you what you should know about those adventures; you’ll see me find out just how deep the water is even when it looks shallow!

So stay tuned right here to the Water-Full Life Blog. You’ll have fun and be safe wherever the water takes you.