Watersports safety is extremely important

Water sports and boating are fun and enjoyable, people often don’t think about the risks involved, and as a result, don’t follow basic and necessary safety measures. Everyone who participates in water sports of any kind should know the basic rules of safety. Follow the guidelines below to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of others, while in or on the water.


1. You should know how to swim if you want to fully enjoy water sports. If you are not a good swimmer, take swimming lessons to learn basic swimming skills. Learning to swim is extremely important for children, who tend to learn quicker than adults. Children who learn to swim at a young age are less likely to fear the water, which allows them to participate in many types of water activities. The YMCA has been teaching people to swim for more than 100 years. You can check out their website (www.ymca.net) for more information.

2. Children can be fearless when it comes to being in the water. They have very little concern for their own safety or the safety of others. All children who are playing or taking part in water sports activities must be supervised by adults, at all times. Young children have a higher risk of drowning, so never leave children alone near or in the water. Assign an individual to keep an eye on children the entire time they are near the water, and, if possible, have a second adult help out as well.

3. Wear a life jacket (i.e., personal flotation device) even if you are a great swimmer. If you fall or become incapacitated in the water, a life jacket will keep you afloat until help arrives. Even in a boat, riders should be wearing life jackets. The latest statistics indicate that more than half of boating-related deaths in recent years were due to drowning, and may have been avoided if the victims had been wearing life jackets. Make sure that the life jacket fits properly and is Coast Guard-approved.

4. Never go out swimming, diving alone. Even though you may enjoy this time alone, it can be very dangerous. Make sure you have someone with you at all times when you are in or on the water. It doesn’t matter whether you are swimming or boating or fishing; never risk getting out alone in the water.

5. Carry extra safety supplies and equipment with you when you are boating. These can include extra life jackets, a mobile phone, first aid kit, equipment manual and tools, bottles of water and towels. Ensure you and your passengers are aware of these items and know how to use them properly. Be sure the supplies and equipment are accessible, yet stored safely and securely.

6. Let people know where you are going. You don’t have to formally file a float plan, but you should still complete the information and give it to someone staying on shore. In the event you do not return as scheduled, this information will be the starting point for locating you and providing assistance as needed. Many things can go wrong when you are out on the water, from physical issues to mechanical problems, so be proactive and plan your activity in advance; then follow that plan. An example of a float plan is provided here.

7. Watch the Weather. You should always be aware of the current and forecast weather conditions during the time you plan to be on the water. This includes the water and sea conditions also. Avoid planning water activities if the weather forecast predicts rain or storms or high seas/rough water. If you do get caught in bad weather, get everybody out of the water, in the boat, and head for shore immediately.

8. When boating, follow the rules of the sea: stay in navigable waters, monitor your wakes, maintain plenty of distance between other boats, and have someone looking out for people in the water – a “spotter.” If you have water skiers, or boat tubes that people will be riding on, like a big towable tube, go over the hand signs so skiers and riders know how to communicate with the boat: Okay (thumb and tip of index finger together); Faster (thumbs up); Slower (thumbs down); Stop (hand slashing across neck); Go Back to the dock or shore (pat head). Even though kids can yell loud, don’t expect to hear them over the roar of the boat engine.

9. During summer, you will be exposed to harmful rays from the sun most of the time you are on the boat or playing in the water. To protect your skin, and stay hydrated, be sure to wear sunscreen, and drink plenty of water. Reapply sunscreen after being in the water, and as often as recommended. It’s great to have that healthy, suntan look – just get that look gradually, and protect your skin to avoid sunburns. You should also wear good sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare from the sun, and a hat to protect your head and shield your face. You may even want to wear long sleeve sun shirts, which is an even better idea for children.

10. While you need to stay hydrated, you should avoid drinking anything alcoholic, before and during any boating or water sports activity. Boating and drinking just do not mix. You are responsible for those with you, and in or around the water, and need to be able to react quickly and appropriately if a dangerous situation should occur. More than half of boating accidents involve alcohol, so stay safe, and stay sober!

“Be respectful of ALL sea life. It’s not your home, it’s theirs — and you’re just visiting. Sure, it can be thrilling to see a pod of whales or dolphins up close, but you need to keep your distance. Hawaii, for example, has specific regulations for interacting with marine life: you need to stay at least 100 yards away from humpback whales and it is illegal to touch the sea turtles. And if you’re not a professional, you should keep your hands off the coral reef, fish, and sharks.”