Swimming in a lake or the ocean is exciting and beautiful! There’s plenty of space, but swimming in the open water is more difficult and dangerous than swimming in a pool. There are more hazards such as boats, recreational equipment and aquatic wildlife. You could also be a danger to the area’s biodiversity and the body of water itself could be dangerous. Swim in open water only once you are a competent swimmer, but be cautious and not over-confident.

Swimming in open water can be safe and fun as long as you educate yourself beforehand. Don’t let open water swimming anxiety stop you from hopping into an ocean or lake!

Keep in mind that open water swimming safety can vary depending on the body of water. There are some general rules to follow. However, there are different things to keep in mind based on where you are. For example, there are differences between swimming in lakes and oceans.

 General Open Water Swimming Safety Tips:

Regardless of whether you are swimming in an ocean or lake, there are some things to remember. These tips can be followed no matter where you are swimming! 

  • Always swim with a buddy: Bring a family member or friend with you to go swimming. This is especially important with young children. That way someone can help you or go get help in the event of an emergency.
  • Get to know your surroundings: Make sure the area you are swimming in is safe. Water temperature and depth are big factors in this. Know the locations of emergency response options and follow the beach’s rules.
  • Stay alert while you swim: Know your limits and do not swim too far. Currents and water depths can change quickly. Be sure you can handle this and wear water shoes if the lake or ocean floor isn’t smooth sand.
  • Take frequent breaks: Being tired in deep water can potentially be very dangerous. Be well-rested when you plan to swim in the open water. This can prevent drowning and ensure you have the strength to paddle against a current. 
  • Keep kids safe: Young children should always wear life jackets when swimming in lakes or oceans. They should also be within the arm’s reach of a strong adult swimmer at all times. Always supervise kids in the open water or the pool.

Swimming in open water has challenges that make it more fun. By following the rules listed above, you can enjoy it and not spend your time worrying.

Open Water Swimming Safety for Lakes:

Swimming in the ocean has its safety risks. Below are some of the ways to stay safe.


  • Find a designated swim zone: Usually there are areas marked by signs and enclosed by buoys that are meant for swimming in lakes. They are restricted from boats and other recreational equipment and monitored by a lifeguard. 
  • If there are no signs: Stay in a place that’s free of boats and other potential hazards. Always be aware of your surroundings in the open water. You are not the only one swimming in the lake.
  • Research water quality: Do this before swimming in a lake. This will help you avoid e-coli, swimmers’ itch or dangerous water creatures. Swimming in unsafe water can make you very sick. 
  • Don’t dive: If you can’t see what is under the water’s surface completely, diving can be dangerous. For example, jumping into the water off a cliff looks fun, but it’s not safe because you can’t see where you are jumping. Always enter the water feet first.

Open Water Swimming Safety for Oceans:

Swimming in the ocean has its safety risks. Below are some of the hazards to be prepared for.

  • Beware of rip currents: A rip current happens when water mixes with sand from the bottom of the ocean. Even strong swimmers can be pulled out to sea. This is due to the water becoming heavier making it harder to push back.
  • Pay attention to the frequency and size of waves: Getting hit by a wave unexpectedly can knock you over. This can cause you to be pulled underwater by the undertow. Avoid swimming when waves are high because they can more easily go over your head.
  • Bring a whistle: Attaching a whistle to your bathing suit can help you call for help in the event of an emergency. This is especially helpful if you are far out in the water. A lifeguard or strong swimmer can then come to your aid. 

Always be prepared and alert when swimming in lakes or oceans. Swimming in the open water offers a new challenge and is plenty of fun. As long as you are vigilant and cautious, try it out for yourself on your next trip to the beach!