Five “Must-Do’s” for safe, responsible open water swimming

Swimming is considered one of the most complete forms of exercise in the world. It tones and fortifies your entire body without stressing the joints, commonly found in high impact activities like running, tennis, and basketball. It can also be a very relaxing, meditative experience. After a few weeks in the pool, you notice that you are no longer the stressed out land creature that you were two weeks ago. You are starting to coordinate your body better. Your movements are less clumsy, your strokes and all around proficiency improving with every kick. You are on your way!

Fast forward and now you are standing on a sandy beach, looking out into the horizon, carefully assesing the ocean’s conditions: currents, wave intervals, backwash, riptides, etc.

Open Water Swimming

It is three months since your first lap around the pool. A covered, heated pool. Your swim coach, standing next to you now, recalls the challenge, given to you nearly three months ago: to complete your first open water swim. And you accepted gladly, knowing that growth comes from pushing yourself and leaving your comfort zone behind. And so here you are. But before taking on the ocean, you are reminded of 5 “must-dos” for safe, responsible open water swimming:

1. Get to know where you are swimming. Check conditions thoroughly.

This is a no brainer. Check the signs at the beach. They are there for a reason: to guarantee your safety. Also, take at least 20 minutes to check conditions, as already mentioned above.

2. Make sure you are properly equiped with the right open water swimming gear.

3. Beware of the cold. Hypothermia is a bitch!

4. Make sure someone knows where you are and that you have means to call for help, especially in remote locations.


5. Take note of local safety advice and ALWAYS respect the landowners and other users.



You look at your coach one more time, taking a deep breath and exhaling. He smiles and ecourages you. The marker, a red bouy floating 300 yards out, is the half-way marker. 600 yards in total. You put on your swim cap and goggles and plunge into the surf. You are ready…you got this!

If you liked this article, please leave your thoughts below. I read all comments and will gladly take the time to reply. Thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Five “Must-Do’s” for safe, responsible open water swimming”

  1. Great must dos to take into account! I have never actually gone to an ocean before to swim in the water, the farthest I’ve been is to a beach or park where there was a stretch of water. Honestly I’m not sure how these were. There were never any guidelines by which to follow and no life guard in site. In other words none of these must dos were applied to any of the places I’ve gone but I think that they are very important. Thanks so much for sharing them!

    1. Hey Carlos! You know, I used to really not pay attention to the guidelines and signs at the beach until I started getting more into surfing and other extreme ocean sports. And honestly they are there for a very good reason. To keep you safe. The ocean is unpredictable, and more so here in Riviera Maya. It may look beautiful, turquoise waters and all that, but there is always that chance of something unexpected happening. Always respect the signs and the indications from the lifeguard crew. Saludos!

  2. Luis, you mentioned extreme sports. Well we have extreme surfing at Shipstern Bluff, off the east coast of Tasmania. I would liked to have attached a photo of this but can’t put a link here. Just look up Shipstern Bluff on the web and you can see many images.

    For we non- surfers, this looks very extreme.

    You are very right about the relaxing aspects of swimming. The water in southern Tasmania is a wee (very) bit cold but I am fortunate enough to live near an indoor 25m pool. Exercising in water is very good for me and I do it with a bunch of other older timers. And we have a great deal of fun and laughter.

    On mainland Australia we have many fantastic surfing beaches but probably the best known internationally is Bondi Beach. We have a seasonal show called Bondi Rescue.

    And in regards to familiarising oneself as to the conditions there are so many who don’t. And guess where the lifeguards are generally sent to.

    Many of those swimmers in difficulty are foreign speakers but many are also English speakers who either can’t read signs (in English) or are deaf to the lifeguards’ comments about where to swim.

    Here it is between the flags. We have quite stupendous rips and many around the rocks.

    In Tasmania, wet suites are a must. Unless you are a masochist! But swimmers need to be aware of the cold factor when getting a wet suit.

    Travelling anywhere in Tasmania, and not just for surfing or swimming, requires some means of communication as so much of it is remote. Most carry EPURBS and mobiles but some don’t and then the emergency services are tied up looking for those lost ones.

    I imagine this frustrates them a great deal.

    I like your site. It is colourful, well written and very informative. Keep up the good work.


    1. Hi Helen! Of course I have heard of legendary Shiptstern’s Bluff. It is HEAVY!! Also, I am not sure if it is in Tazmania: Shark Island. Another heavy, heavy slab! You know, it is sad that folks do not take heed of the signage. I live in Riviera Maya, Mexico, and lifeguards here are THE authority when it comes to beach and ocean safety. As you can immagine, being a resort area, safety for tourists takes precedence and lifeguards have their hands full, specially during high season times (winter and summer season). Tks for your comments! I will try to keep it informative and fun to read. Cheers!

  3. Hi there
    Great article here!
    There is some great tips that you have covered.
    The most important thing I think is that you have to check the warnings and never go alone. I have seen so many news stories of people who go swimming on holidays and get either lost at sea or end up having to be saved or worse drowning. And all these events could of been avoided by reading your great advice!

    1. Hi Hailey! I agree. You should always apply the buddy system when planning an open water swim, even if he or she stays out of the water. You never know what could come up…seriously.  It is a shame that people do not pay more attention to the signs. They are there to guarantee their safety. 

  4. Hi! Thanks so much for this very informative article on open ocean swimming.

    I love swimming, particularly, in the ocean, but I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to open ocean swimming. I’m afraid I’ll drown. However, your tips have helped to alleviate my anxiety. Now, all I have to do is find an ocean!

    Anyway, you say to have the right open water swimming gear. Can you suggest any?

    1. Hi B.A.! The wet suit is the main piece of gear you want to focus on. Henderson, Mares and Body Glove are my favorite open water brands.They offer a wide range of wetsuits, from full-body to shorties and vests. Try looking for suits that are comfortable and snugg. They must fit tightly as water will get into your suit. Your body temperature will naturally heat this water and make a protective film between your skin and the neoprene. That’s what keeps you warm. Having a loose fitting suit is not advisable.  Also, the thickness of the suit matters. The thicker it is, the more insulation from cold water, but that comes at a price in regards to movement and flexibility. Wetsuits go from 6 mm thick neoprene to 2 mm. Of course, a pair of comfortable goggles and a head-cap (a person looses 7 to 10 percent of their body heat through their head), are necessary accesories for a comfortable, safe swim.

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