To let my child swim in the great outdoors?(67 Posts)
So many tragic deaths this year in rivers and quarry's. it's so so bloody sad.
The advice from the authorities seems to be consistent with people being told to stay away. But I think this is wrong - human beings always have and always will be attracted to outdoor swimming - it's one of the most natural things in the world surely?
Instead of simply telling people not to do it, shouldn't we be educating people how to do it safely?
Would be interested to hear people's thoughts, particularly non-Brits.
Is outdoor swimming on the continent the norm? What about in Australia?
My son (14) has had an amazing summer swimming with his friends in the Thames (at Lechlade, not in London!)
It's not without risk and of COURSE I worry but am I being unreasonable letting him continue?
Any outdoor swimmers care to comment?
The benefits outweigh the risks - it is healthy and exhilarating and will give him such positive memories . Balanced against a small risk of drowning.
I think if you believe he is being safe and taking necessary precautions then its fine.
Maybe you could send him on a first aid course? He'd learn how to perform CPR which could be invaluable
I used to swim in sea when i was little. My dad was around. He used to take me out in a little blow up dingy. One of my favourite memories of childhood
I think it's fine that the advice is to stay away. It means that people who want to do it might take it a bit more seriously and do some research/take more care before assuming it is harmless. There are more risks to swimming in natural water with currents and tides than there are in pools built for the purpose of swimming. And, a lot of people just lack common sense and don't think about this.
As long as they are aware of the dangers - no jumping in off bridges etc, no jumping in without knowing how cold it is below the top few inches (slowly go in the first time each day), being aware of danger spots and currents etc - then fine!
Oh and make sure they know where the lifebelts are etc, or at least carry a large sealed empty bottle with a small string handle attached!
Totally normal to swim in lakes and some rivers, plus the sea in the North in Germany.
was interesting although fidnt agree with it all
I've swum on glacier fed rivers, where it took ages to get in the water but I was then fine, albeit nearly lost the feeling in my legs at times.
The sudden shock I got when capsizing a dinghy off Cornish coast was a totally different story. Definitely the hyperventilating gasping mentioned in the comments section of that article. Very glad for my life jacket u set those circumstances.
YANBU, I live in Sweden and swimming in the local lake is a highlight of the summer, there are big towers built for people to jump from. I grew up in Devon and we went swimming in the sea throughout the year even when there were very big waves, it was great fun!
Yes people die occasionally when swimming in lakes/rivers/the sea. people also die in cars, should we ban them? Sensible strong swimmers are unlikely to die swimming in a calm bit of water.
DH swam in the sea a lot and the river occationally and I swam in my local river a lot and the sea occasionally.
DMIL still swam in the river or sea all her life. She made a point of swimming every New Year's Day (yes in Britain) and yes DMIL was wonderfully eccentric
My DDs generally don't get much wild swimming in Britain because we don't have anywhere near by, but I wouldn't stop them. DD1 has done enough water sports to be well aware it's cold when you fall in.
Around my way, alcohol is implicated in a lot of water deaths - teens getting drunk, and then thinking a swim sounds like a good idea.
I think the other issue is ignorance. Like outdoor pursuits in general people just aren't aware of the dangers of water any more.
Bring back those terrifying films you used to be shown in primary school!
My DSS drowned in Loch Lomond at the age of 14, when he was swimming with his mates.
So the answer from me would be no.
Yeah - what I said - enter slowly the first time!
Where we live, in Sweden, it is very normal to swim in lakes and in the sea. DD1 has friends of 5 years old who swim outdoors without armbands. She is a little more cautious and still had armbands this summer but we have absolutely been out and swum several times this summer. Always under supervision of course and at recognised swimming areas. It is one of the pleasures of the summer over here
Knowing someone who drowned in the Thames aged 17 has rather put me off swimming in rivers (I too was 17 at the time). My eldest DC is only 12 but I have already warned him about swimming in rivers. Our local river is similar size to the Thames and there is no way I'd let him swim in it. If there was a safe lake nearby I would perhaps consider that but river currents are too strong.
I'm so sorry Wanda that is terrible.
Agree with Cheese, it's absolutely normal. I've been swimming in rivers, lakes and the sea in Germany, France and Spain. Never had an issue. HOWEVER, I was able to swim from the age of 5 and had basic knowledge of water safety and rescue procedures from the age of 6. I had been taught about currents (and how to try and get out of them) and the dangers of jumping into shallow water.
I teach lifeguarding to children of primary age, and I think once they know what possible dangers are and how to keep themselves and other safe, they can make better choices. It's not about removing all risks in life, it's about educating children about them, so that they can help themselves, if they get into trouble.
We live close to the beach and sometimes I really cannot understand how little common sense some people seem to have.
We all learned to swim in the chilly north sea as children. I'm not a particularly strong swimmer though so don't go out very far these days.
I used to love swimming in the river as a child and will defintely be taking the boys river swimming when they are older.
Surroundedbyblonds - is there more 'awareness' in Sweden? re water safety?
What kind of provision in school etc?
I think due to cut backs in the UK, swimming tuition is being pushed to one side and even then, information re swimming outdoors is non- existent.
My neighbour has just returned from 10 years in Australia and according to her outdoor swimming is more common-place and kids expected to master freestyle with bi-lateral breathing by age 12.
Given that we are an Island (and a small one at that), I'm surprised that more isn't being done to teach our kids to swim safely.
My DC are strong swimmers. I still wouldn't want them to swim in rivers, tbh. They are too unpredictable. If they got into distress there is the potential for them to drag innocent people into a situation that could put their lives at risk and ultimately they could all lose their lives.
I don't think the experience of swimming in a river is worth a life.
Bumply i know the feeling! I went on a pgl when i was 13 and capsized from my kayake in the lake . The shock! I was froze. I was also thankfull for the life jacket if i hadnt havve been wearing it i would have drown.
Went to spain last year. Im not best swimmer but i swam in the sea. Liad of little kids were too. Think its fine as long as theyre supervised.
It's a normal thing here (US) we live close to some rivers and lakes, and have been ourselves swimming and boating. Yet every single year people still manage to get out of their depth, go under no live vests on and are found by the rescue teams later that day or week further down stream.
Many of the people who lose their lives are also good strong swimmers, they don't realize how far across it is to the other side, or get overtired from the cold water as it is snow run off. I tried to keep our swimming to the local outdoor pool.
*Live vests sound nice, but I mean Life vests.
Lots of kids swim in the sea / lakes around here. Not the river though,it's to fast flowing. Swimming lessons are a must for my dc though, and will look into getting them taught basic first aid when older. It's a risk, and I'm very sorry for the people who have lost loved ones, but driving a car etc is a risk. We just have to minimise the risk as much as much as we can eg - life jackets, full supervision etc.
I don't think it does anyone any harm to be reminded of the dangers. A friend of mine lost her brother to drowning, also in Loch Lomond and it was put down to a combination of alcohol and the temperature of the water.
That said, we swam there for years and my brother and I sailed alone for weeks at a time over the holidays when we were 15 and 10 respectively. We understood the dangers, but I suppose you can never account for accidents. Let's just say we had a few close calls our parents never heard about.
To quote Arthur Ransome in Swallows and Amazon's:
"Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won't drown"
I was never allowed to do more than paddle as a child, which is sensible really as I've never been a strong swimmer. This summer a friend got me swimming in a local river, where I could touch the bottom almost all the time. Obv no jumping off bridges although she apparently used to as a child! I had a fab time!
Stupidity of a few unfortunately means the official advice will be stay away, but I think as long as those doing it know their limits and stick to them, and take sensible precautions then there's nothing wrong with it. Agree that life saving and first aid courses are a good idea.
Where I live in Sweden lake swimming is safe because there is very little movement in the water and you'd have to go out a long, long way to get out of your depth. The river where you can swim is a slow flowing meandering one.
I used to live near the Thames which is fast flowing and very dangerous. Likewise the ever popular with youngsters local gravel pits which get very deep, very quickly and are difficult to get out of.
It's very dangerous.
I'm a swimming teacher and give water safety talks to schools. Even strong swimmers can find them selfs in difficulty if a strong currents takes them, it's happened to me.
Out door swimming is a fantastic experience if monitored properly by trained life guards. Being watched by parents just doesn't cut it I'm afraid, an untrained rescuer will more than likely put them self in danger .
Some parents are just so bloody stupid
gee thanks dontgowadingin
Has it ever occurred to you that people are more likely to be killed in their cars on the way to your swimming lessons then they are partaking in outdoor swimming activities?
And wild swimming is not 'very dangerous' what an utterly stupid thing to say!
I wonder if that statistic is true this summer, MsMeg, there have been so many deaths in open water in the last (say) 3 weeks that over that period I'd be fairly sure that driving has actually been a safer activity.
I am Canadian, and have been swimming in lakes and rivers my whole life. Now I swim in the ocean as well, as do the kids. It feel odd to swim in pools, although I love how warm they are, they do feel very chemical-ish
Depends where you do your 'wild swimming' MrsMeg. The places people tend to drown in the UK such as reservoirs and flooded quarries, are not safe places to swim. Why else do you think the owners are dyeing the water to stop people using them?
So many of the deaths involve underwater roots and obstacles. You want to take the chance, fine.
My three older children, ages 13, 11 and 9 can all do bi-lateral front crawl, it has nothing to do with where they're taught and the UK being a risk-averse society, we just don't fancy our children drowning. My uncle did, age 12, swimming in a 'wild' place and he was a good swimmer.
I'd be too concerned about the hidden dangers of currents. Strong swimmers can be swept away by currents, rip tides etc.
I'm pretty sure there's an outdoor swimming society or association that campaign for safety advice and recommend spots for swimming - try googling.
I agree with the op and think pool swimming is like only ever running on an athletics track or cycling a stationary bike.
Our local tri club runs open water swim sessions if you want something a bit organised?
No one wants their child to drown, do they?
Just as I'm sure the parents of the 3 teens who all died in separate car accidents in our county in the last few months (all three known to my own children through work/college etc) wanted their sons or daughters to die within months of passing their driving tests.
I just don't understand the attitude to outdoor swimming in the UK, I agree that some of these tragic deaths could probably have been avoided but isn't it time that we tried to equip people with the knowledge to swim safely. Assess the risk? Rather than just label them as stupid?
Is it not about risk assessing as every activity?
We have swum abroad in without lifeguards etc eg in French rivers and lakes. However we don't swim unless others are too - and preferably locals.
Steep sided quarries and reservoirs are clearly not safe.
Tides I agree are much harder to read. Even now I don't think I'd let the kids swim in the sea without a parent. Not that I kid myself we could rescue thrm if they were in trouble - but that we, as adults,could read hazards a bit better
I grew up in the US and took all my swimming lessons in a lake- there were no local swimming pools so this was how all the kids learned how to swim. Nothing quite like waking up at 7:00 AM shivering on the beach doing warm ups then having little fish nibble at your ankles when you waded in!
We also swam in the ocean in Maine every summer. Good sized waves, freezing cold water and a fairly strong current. Fantastic!
I have swum in the sea my whole life and continue to do so every summer, from June to September regardless of whether it's a warm summer or not.
I learned to swim (in a swimming pool) aged 4 and swimming has been one of my greatest pleasures in life, particularly sea-swimming.
I actually agree that it is very dangerous, but if you are a strong, confident swimmer and act sensibly then you can greatly reduce the risks. For instance, around the coast near where I live, I know which beaches are safer to swim from and which ones to avoid completely due to currents, whirl pools, and undulating ground beneath. I also swim off rocks, but only when the sea is calm enough.
One of the worst things parents can do is give their children inflatables in the sea. Many drownings are due to children or even adults being carried out to sea on inflatables and not able to get back to shore. Don't even use arm bands. I was always taught to test my depth by putting my feet down and to not swim out of my depth.
I have swum in lakes in France and Germany but lakes are so-so: not as magical as the sea IMO.
A teenager died here, if you look across the water you calculate that it is well within your capabilities to swim that far, but the deep water is very cold it's numbs you and restricts breathing.
You can be as strong a swimmer as you like but so many of the open water places in the UK are man made and have hazards under the surface which can't be seen or they're very deep bodies of water with low temperatures.
Educating people about who to use them safely is pointless as they're just not safe to swim in.
Yes a lovely swim across a natural lake with sloping sides or a river with varying depths can be amazing, you're just missing the point about where these accidents are happening.
I love it - though I only swim outdoors within my depth, and ideally when I can see the bottom - in shallow rivers and the sea. I'm very cautious with my DC as they can't swim atm and DS at 8 is showing no signs of being able to, though we are trying.
I think people are very under-informed about the signs of drowning and also what water can do when it's cold, flowing fast, deep or opaque. I only learnt about what drowning can look like - the person going quiet and helpless, not thrashing about - on here very recently.
And people generally don't tend to think of water as powerful. Water is very heavy and if it's moving fast it can knock you down and pull you away easily, even if it's shallow. Currents can pull you under the surface in a way that is invisible to people nearby once you've under. Jumping or diving into water you don't know well is obviously daft but loads of people do it.
Aside from the issue of people swimming in the summer, I'm always horrified when there are big floods and there's always footage of people larking about in floodwater or letting small children paddle right at the edge of a raging torrent, and they're always presented as harmless fun. Floods are extra dangerous as they are unpredictable.
More generally, why don't we get public information ads and warnings like we used to? They did work - we all still remember them. Even when it's on the news, they rarely get someone knowledgeable in to just explain the dangers and tell you explicitly what is and isn't safe. Instead you just get all this opinion and handwringing.
I'm a strong swimmer but I wouldn't swim across a river I was in recently - I stayed close to the edge. Because I'd never been there before, couldn't see how deep it was and if it got deep and cold in the middle or had undercurrents. To me, that felt like a natural instinct to avoid the unknown, as well as being sensible. But then drinking and not wanting to look chicken probably make a lot of people do things they wouldn't do otherwise.
"Has it ever occurred to you that people are more likely to be killed in their cars on the way to your swimming lessons then they are partaking in outdoor swimming activities?"
Why so antagonistic? Statistically more people are killed on the roads because more people drive than go wild swimming. It would be interesting to see what the pro rata deaths are.
"And wild swimming is not 'very dangerous' what an utterly stupid thing to say!"
I have swum in lakes and the sea, but I would never swim in a river unless I knew it was safe. The problem we have round here is that there are loads of reservoirs and they are extremely dangerous places to swim in, yet every year when we have a heatwave people die from trying to swim in one.
I scuba dive and have, on occasion, found myself in stronger currents/colder water/worse visibility, (not relevant to swimming I know), than I had expected when I planned and started my dive. I have known currents to change direction during a dive. Sometimes it has been quite scary even when properly trained, equipped and with other suitably trained and equipped buddies, whilst being followed by a dive boat. Personally, I would never swim in open water I didn't know (without someone who knew it well) and neither would I allow my children to.
I've spent a lot of time in Canada and always swum in lakes there, but, by July, those lakes are warm. This spring was cold and the water late to warm up but by July, the lake we stayed near was about 26c, near the surface of course but that's where you swim. By the end of a sunny fortnight it felt like getting into a swimming pool.
I swam in the North Sea as a child and happily stayed in cold water until I was going blue. I didn't have the same fear or dislike of cold that I do now. Supervision was essential!
I'd be very wary of reservoirs, canals and many rivers in the UK, as they're full of all sorts of rubbish - I always imagine sharp, rusty metal objects just below the surface - as well as rivers being full of sewage. I'd happily swim in more remote lakes though, when I feel I can stand the cold.
Possibly a silly question, but what is bilateral swimming? Was never taught to swim - I learned by sheer luck - using the strokes I knew when a wave knocked me for six in the Caribbean Sea. Terrifying - I was dragged along the shingle and bled - but I was very fortunate. I want DC to learn to swim really well - DH takes them (I took them to baby 'swimming') but we want to try to give LO the chance to learn the best technique.
Bunbaker - I'm not disagreeing with you, my point is that when people do tragically lose their lives on the road, they are rarely labelled as 'idiotic' for being in a car in the first place.
Rather than issue a point blank 'don't swim in open water' rule (which the police have been issuing throughout the summer), wouldn't it be better to educate people about keeping safe in the water?
How many of us here know how to spot a rip-tide, or what to do if caught in one for example?
Btw, Dr Alice Roberts presented a programme on wild swimming a year or two ago, it may still be available. It included some of the places from Roger Deakin's book waterlog and was gently positive. It did cover the reflex reaction to immersion in cold water well too. Take time to adjust before you start swimming was the message, or you can find yourself struggling to breathe and keep afloat at the same time.
LondonNinja, bilateral breathing (I think) is where you swim freestyle or front crawl and learn to breathe on one side then swim for 3 strokes, then breathing the other side.
Not a technique I have ever mastered
In Australia I believe kids are taught this from a reasonably young age. Not that it would keep them safe of course but its simply one technique they are taught amongst others.
I guess my point is that in other countries, learning to swim and learning to assess and minimise risk is given more emphasis then here in the UK
I saw that Lottie, I remember the advice about suddenly immersing in cold water and how to react, I made sure to tell my children too because I think the initial response must always be to try and quickly swim out of the water but of course lives have been lost this way.
The same with Rip Tides, they are rarely strong enough to drag you under but so many people drown because they don't understand the mechanism of them or even how to spot them in the first place.
Unless I was the only person on the planet not to know this?
I think the problem is that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I completely agree, that swimming in seas (mainly for me as a diver) can be an amazing thing, and I'm sure wild swimmers would say the same about lakes/rivers etc, but the police have limited resources and want to stop people jumping into random quarries when they have had a few beers. Of course, it would be great to educate people about safely assessing and enjoying open water, I would also like to see children taught basic first aid at school, but i think resources are stretched at the moment and in terms of keeping people safe this summer, the best advice is to stay out.
In other countries far more people live or spend time near water bodies that are desirable swimming places. Most people in the UK don't, despite the coastline. Outdoor swimming is just not a commonplace activity here, and never will be for most people, so it's not a surprise that learning how to assess its risks is not as normal or widespread an activity as learning to ride a bike.
I grew up on the south coast, and there was also a river on the farm, not to mention troughs for cattle and so on. We were taught about water safety from a young age, and that even the strongest swimmer can get into trouble. I don't remember my first swimming lessons, but my mother thought learning to swim was a high priority. I am quite a strong swimmer, and was involved in lifesaving from age 14. I paid my way through uni on the wages from teaching swimming and lifeguarding.
I love swimming outside, it's a million times better than swimming indoors (at least in summer!) I was blessed in growing up in Dorset, where we have lots of beaches which are good for swimming, and I have really been missing being able to go down for a swim after school/work, now I don't live there.
If you've got the option of using beaches with lifeguards, that's best, but it's not an option everywhere. Learn to know what flags mean, but if there aren't any flags, that doesn't mean either that it's safe or unsafe. Know that beaches all have their own characteristics, dependent on tides and geology. Some slope out gently, others can shelve suddenly, and you can go from it being up to your knees in one step to being out of your depth.
Be very wary if you can't see the bottom through the water. You can't estimate the depth, and can't see if there's anything sharp or anything. Rivers can be safe, but it very much depends on the depth and water flow. Conditions can change very quickly. Aim for shallower, slower-flowing, clear waters, than deep, fast-flowing water, particularly if it's fast enough to churn white. If it's coming off mountains or come through caves, it could be very cold. Be very wary if it's a river with waterfalls or lots of rocks.
Lakes can also be okay - avoid them if they've got much algae visible, though. I would avoid disused quarries. They tend to be very deep, which will make the water much colder. Cold water makes you gasp, which increases the risk of you inhaling water. Your extremities will go numb as your blood concentrates on protection your vital organs, and you won't be able to judge what's under your feet or control your limbs so well. Hypothermia can affect your mental state and judgement, and you may not realise you're getting into trouble. (And in British waters, hypothermia is more likely to kill you than drowning.) Sudden immersion into cold water could trigger a heart attack, particularly if you're not fit.
I also have a vague memory from when I was doing lifesaving exams that something like 25% of all drownings in British waters is attributable to alcohol.
I don't want to put anyone off swimming - it's a brilliant sport, and swimming outside is fantastic, and I've done it in loads of places round the world (including some places in ignorance of some of the risks, like crocodiles, as was pointed out to me after I got out of the water at one place in Malawi... Obviously I survived.) There can also be risks with waterborne diseases like Weil's disease (leptopspirosis), not to mention tons of other diseases and parasites if you're in the tropics, but the risks in UK waters are low (not non-existent - there are cases of leptospirosis every year, and you should be aware of the symptoms, even if the risk is low.)
Are others swimming where you're thinking of swimming? Find out local knowledge if you can. The more swimmers there are, the warmer the water's likely to be, and probably it's safer. Some places will be known as safer swimming spots - check out something like www.wildswimming.co.uk/ There are other websites, but this is probably the best for the UK.
(Sorry for wittering on - it's a talent of mine...)
I learned to swim in a river, and my parents generally liked to stop for a swim if we came across open water in the summer. They taught us about currents and to check the depth, not jump unless we'd made sure it was deep enough etc. Most of the places we swam at had plenty of other people swimming too, and none of them had lifeguards. Not heard of the phrase 'wild swimming' either.
We live in Canada now and have lots of lakes around us, so in the summer we swim in them a fair bit. Our local river has a couple of nice beaches and they do have lifeguards in the summer. There have been more than average numbers of drowning deaths this year, but a fair number have been in swimming pools or people in boats etc without lifejackets. There have been no blanket 'don't swim in lakes, rivers or the sea' warnings.
in British waters, hypothermia is more likely to kill you than drowning.
I mean that people drown because they get hypothermia, and are no longer able to get themselves safe, and partly because they won't be aware any more that they are in danger - though hypothermia can kill on its own, and not just in water.
Yes, the inly nasty acident in our kocal river was a teen who was paralysed jumping in after he'd been drinking.
There was one and only one rock free place, he'd no doubt done it a hundred times, most of the teens had, but having been drinking he miss judged it
Lots of people are arguing that it's 'too risky' because people underestimate hazzards, cold, tides, currents etc... but to me all those are factors related to the lack of outdoor swimming we have in this country, of course people don't have the knowledge to assess those risks if all their swimming is done in a pool.
What we need is not for everybody to avoid outdoor swimming but for people who have experience to share that with others - young and old - and for sensible information to be available and possibly even proper training/qualifications and clubs. Like there is with any other outdoor activity where you need to build experience slowly to learn how to be safe yourself - sailing, mountain climbing etc.
A few of the recent deaths (as someone else has mentioned) have been related to people getting tangled up in underwater reeds or pulled away by unseen currents. The trouble with those things is that they're deceptive - you think, Oh, I'm a strong swimmer, this water looks nice and calm, and you have no idea what you're letting yourself in for.
There's also the risk of course of nasty diseases such as Weill's. So I'd be wary.
We swim in the sea. Never swum in a river, was always told not to as children and don't now as adults.
Lakes are fine but we don't go to our local lake to swim, just to kayak around and maybe row a boat, if we fall out of the kayak it's more of an accidental swimming trip than a planned one.
What other kind of swimming would one do but outdoorsy kind?
Can't fathom public pools - cesspits of human debris and waste. Boak.
Learnt to swim in a river and lake, swam in the sea every Summer as a child - brilliant.
The issue is recklessness, daft machismo and ignorance.
If basic rules were adhered to, the fatalities would drop dramatically.
Don't jump from bridges/etc
Don't swim between red flags.
Don't swim in unfamiliar quarries/stretches of rivers etc. where you don't know the hazards. Or as the locals.
Know what to do if caught in a current/ undertow.
Know how to deal with cramps.
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