We don't know about you, but this extra-cold winter certainly has us focused on our summer agenda.
There's still a few months to go before wetsuits become optional, but we think it's never too early to start cooking up your warm weather plans. After all, summer is the best season of the year to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.
For many, June through September is the prime time to set out on that much-needed vacation, host your picture-perfect outdoor wedding, and of course, hit the beach to find that perfect wave, Endless Summer-style.
As one of the top ways to beat the heat, the popularity of watersports and aquatic recreation naturally skyrockets in the hotter months. And as a result, so does the number of water-related accidents.
Luckily, many of the most common water-related injuries are totally preventable. So before you dive head-first into the seasonal festivities, check out our top ten water safety tips to ensure that you and your loved ones make smart choices and stay protected this summer.
1. Learn how to swim
Learning how to swim is the single best way to keep yourself safe in the water this summer and beyond.
Swimming is a basic life skill that is important for people of all ages to know how to do. From the neighborhood pool to the lakeside boardwalk, we encounter bodies of water all the time in our everyday life.
Even though you may not plan on entering the water anytime soon, it's still important to know the swimming basics of how to float by yourself and tread water in order to prevent accidental drowning. Plus, swimming is a healthy and fun full-body exercise that is easier on your body compared to workouts like HIIT and weight lifting.
All in all, it's a great skill to have and it is never too late to learn!
2. Don't swim alone
Did you know that 23-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Michael Phelps swims under the supervision of a lifeguard? It's no joke! From the amateur to the expert, when it comes to the water, the same risks apply.
That's why it's crucial to never go out in the water alone, especially in the ocean or lakes where the tides, weather, and wildlife can be unpredictable.
When you do paddle out or go for a dip, always bring at least one another person, or swim with a lifeguard on duty. That way if something does happen to you, there will be someone who can provide immediate first aid or contact emergency services.
3. Learn how to perform CPR
CPR (or Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) is a fundamental lifesaving technique that is used when a person is not breathing or their heart has stopped beating.
When the heart and/or breathing is stopped (often due to drowning or stroke) CPR is necessary in order for oxygen-rich blood to continue flowing to the brain.
It consists of a series of hard chest compressions and rescue breaths given in a continuous pattern. Learning CPR may sound challenging, but it's actually a very easy technique to acquire, and the basics can be learned in as little as one class. You can find lessons on how to do CPR online, or from easily accessible courses offered by hospitals and local community colleges.
4. Make sunscreen the routine
When you're out making memories, time can get away from you, but the sun's UV rays won't. So be sure to pile on the SPF! Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays causes wrinkles, sunspots/discoloration, premature aging, sun poisoning and skin cancer.
Some people have a higher risk than others, such as individuals with lighter skin and eye colors, but regardless of genetic background, everyone should be wearing (and reapplying!) reef-safe sunblock whenever they plan to spend more than 10 minutes outside in the sun. To get the best sun protection for you and your family, make sure to apply liberally, rub in thoroughly, and reapply consistently.
After all, who doesn't want to look younger for longer?
5. Keep weak swimmers supervised
Contrary to TV and popular belief, drowning often happens silently and unnoticed. That's why it's vital to keep weak swimmers (like children and the elderly) supervised at all times when they're around bodies of water.
Backyard ponds, swimming pools and home spas should be properly fenced off to prevent kids from accidentally wandering by and falling in.
Pool floaties, loungers, and other inflatable water toys shouldn't be used as life saving flotation devices either, because they're pretty flimsy and easy to fall off of.
As a good rule of thumb, always keep the young'uns within arm's reach when in the water, and make sure to equip all weak swimmers with a USCG-approved life jacket.
6. Check conditions before you go
Before you head out for your day of recreational fun in the sun, use a reliable source to check weather and water conditions first. Lightening storms, strong tides, and algae blooms can occur rapidly, and have effects that can linger in the environment for days or even weeks.
Bad conditions like these introduce a much higher risk of injury, disease or death to many popular summer recreational water activities like boating, kayaking, paddle boarding and surfing.
It's also helpful to do a little research on how tides and weather can effect your surf trip to make sure you get the most out of your day.
Even if the sun is out and shining, don't presume that it's an OK day to head to the water. It's better to stay on the side of caution, so always check first, and if the forecast isn't looking great, save your adventure for another day.
7. Beware of rip currents
We love ripping, but this rip is no joke. A rip current is a large and fast-moving channel of water that flows quickly and forcefully away from the shore. Unsuspecting swimmers who get caught in a rip current are rapidly dragged out to the open water, unable to fight the powerful flow of the tide.
Heed posted warnings about active rip currents, and don't swim in areas that are marked as hazardous. If you get caught in a rip current, don't panic! Relax, and swim parallel to the shore until you're out of the current, then slowly swim back to shore. If you find yourself getting tired, relax and float, and call or wave for help if you need it.
8. Take frequent water breaks
While you're getting your (metaphorical) fill of salt water, don't forget your regular water too!
Staying well-hydrated is an easy thing to neglect between all the activities and excitement, but it's essential if you're spending lots of time outdoors, especially on hot summer days.
Drinking water allows your body to regulate your temperature through sweating. Without it, you can overheat and suffer from a potentially fatal condition called heatstroke.
Keep your water up by taking regular rehydration breaks, and avoid any party fouls by chasing your responsibly enjoyed adult beverages with a healthy amount of H2O. You can also keep the fluids flowing by also packing tasty treats like ice pops, low-sugar fruit juices, or fresh fruit to snack on during your day out.
9. Don't over do it
No one knows your limits better than you. Whatever challenge you take on this season, always stay out of harm's way and don't push yourself too far.
Overexertion is one of the leading causes of bodily injury, and it's a lot more common in the warmer seasons when more people are outside and in the water. Exhaustion can occur unexpectedly and can pose a variety of risks and problems, especially if it happens while you're out pushing boundaries. Know your limits, and honor them.
10. Listen to the Lifeguard
Lifeguards go through rigorous testing, training, and education to learn all the ins-and-outs of public water safety. They are able to identify issues in the water that you may not see, and anticipate risks that you might not know about.
It's common for people to miss important announcements or warnings given by lifeguards because they aren't paying attention, and this can lead to swimmers not seeing dangers in time to avoid them.
It's the lifeguard's job to keep people secure while they enjoy aquatic activities, so make sure you do your part and listen for their warnings.
Now that you've taken the time to brush up on our summer safety tips, get out there and make this summer the best one yet!