Open Water Safety: Swimming survival skills

So, you’ve checked the essential water safety steps and your kids have safely entered the water using wading entry.

Now hopefully, you and your children are having fun in the water, swimming in standing depth water parallel to the shore and ready to come out as soon as you feel cold.

But do you know what to do if a difficult situation arises?

Knowing the key swimming survival skills could save a child’s life so it is essential you and your children learn how to react calmly to problems in the water, rather than panicking.

Swimming survival skills: survival stroke

If you’re in an emergency situation in open water, you or your child may need to swim somewhere for help. This could be to a float nearby or to rescuers in a boat.

The safest way to swim in this situation is using survival stroke:

  1. Stretch your arms forward under the water
  2. One-by-one, pull your hands back towards your thighs, keeping them close to your body.
  3. Keep your head out of water so you can see what is in front of you
  4. Kick with long, straight legs.

Click play on the video below to see children learning how to swim survival stroke at a Swim Safe session.

Swimming survival skills: help position

The heat escape lessening position (HELP position) is one of the key swimming survival skills and an important thing to remember if you are swimming in open water.

If you are stranded in cold water for any period of time, your body temperature will steadily drop. Adopting the HELP position is the best way of preserving your body heat while staying safe and buoyant.

Follow these four steps to adopt the HELP position in the water:

  1. Keep your legs slightly bent and together or crossed.
  2. Cross your arms and cuddle a flotation aid or, if you’re wearing a life jacket, place your hands on your shoulder.
  3. Squeeze elbows into body and keep your head out of the water, turning away from any waves if possible.
  4. Look in the direction of any rescuers.

Click play on the video below to see children being taught the HELP position from a Swim Safe session.

Swimming survival skills: huddle position

If there are multiple people in the water, huddling together is also a great way of preserving each other’s body heat and also good for maintaining morale among the group.

Being in a group will also increase the chance of being identified by any rescuers.

  1. Keep your legs slightly bent and together or crossed.
  2. Hold onto a neighbour’s float and form a circle with your group.
  3. Press the sides of your bodies together and keep your head out of the water.
  4. One person should take control and keep everyone else talking.

Click play on the video below to see children being taught the huddle position from a Swim Safe session.

Photo credit: Nathan Williams