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Where to Swim?

Where and with whom you swim is an important safety factor

Elaine K. Howley | July 9, 2014

Now that you’ve got the right gear, let’s go swimming. But wait! Where are you headed?

There are lots of places to swim, but swimming alone is dangerous and not advisable, so you should gather some swimming buddies together to go with you or connect with a group that’s already formed. There are resources out there to help you achieve this.

  1. Start with your local Masters Swimming club. A simple email to the president of your club or LMSC may well result in a connection with a local group of open water enthusiasts. Check your Local Masters Swim Committee newsletter, too, for stories about open water swimmers and get connected with them.
  2. You can also use online social networking tools like the iswimtoo site designed by Stephen Coulter in Australia. That site aggregates open water swimming locations information to help swimmers connect with each other globally. The site can be especially helpful if you want to continue your training routine while traveling abroad.
  3. Similarly, and with the added benefit of offering a rich archive of advice, best practices, and sometimes funny stories from a host of experienced marathon swimmers the world over, the Marathon Swimmer’s Forum also offers connections with local open water swimmers via their Map of Swimmers and Pods page. (Even if you’re not planning to do a marathon swim, there’s still lots of great info and many open water swimmers to connect with on the forum.)
  4. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks can also connect you with like-minded swimmers at a local water source, so ask around. Post what you want to do and see who responds.

Once you have a group together, you need to select a place to swim. Aside from those living in coastal regions, American swimmers will be relegated to lakes, ponds, and rivers. But you should check with local authorities about the cleanliness of the water and any swimming restrictions that may be in place before you go marching in.

Once you’ve selected a clean, healthy, and safe body of water, use the buddy system. Don’t ever swim alone! If the body of water you’re enjoying is large or home to lots of boats and traffic, you should also ask a kayaker to shadow you. The kayaker’s slightly higher vantage point means he is more visible to approaching boaters and can also spot dangers father off than you can at water level. The added protection of a lifeguard on shore is a safety bonus well worth seeking out. 

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About the Author—Elaine K. Howley

Elaine K. Howley is Associate Editor of U.S. Masters Swimming. A lifelong swimmer who specializes in cold water marathon swimming, she edits and writes for SWIMMER magazine, USMS.org, and the STREAMLINES eNewsletter series. 

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