Never swim alone?

DavidWDavidW Member
edited August 2014 in General Discussion
when it comes to open water swimming, I have often heard that one should "never" swim alone. Very good advice, but also very hard for me to follow. Even in familiar waters, I am reluctant to set off on my own unless there are lifeguards on duty. If I were to get one of those orange buoys, the temptation to go it alone would be even greater. Before I fully understood the dangers, I used to disappear for long periods, leaving my family on the beach wondering when they might see me again. One other swimmer told me the story of the time his wife actually called out the local police to start a search. Now, there are just too many "what ifs" - cramps, jellyfish, heart attack .... On this board I see many posts of wonderful swims that sound like they were done without anyone close by to help if anything went wrong. Although I would love to set my own schedule and swim in the ocean whenever I want, I just can't justify the risk even if that means not going at all.


  • I usually swim solo but never far from shore. In the ocean I try to stay close enough to shore to walk out if needed. Granted I stay shallow for a few miles but I can usually walk out if needed. Like you said, too many variables.
  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
    edited August 2014
    First: never tell your mother where you're swimming. ( @karent will back me up on this.)
    Second: always have an exit strategy.

    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    Well, as my blog/user name would suggest...

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    After years of having to swim primarily in time-limited triathlon sessions in relatively small lakes, I'm now living within striking distance of fantastic lakes where I can swim to my heart's content for however long I like...and it's glorious. I love the peace of swimming alone, and although I accept that there are certain risks attached, the trade-off is worth it. I always use a drybag tow-float (with a towelling robe and flip flops and phone inside in case I need to get out), and I wear an ID bracelet with emergency contact numbers on. I stay away from anywhere with a lot of unpredictable boat traffic, and always err on the side of caution in terms of pushing myself.

    My partner usually knows broadly where I am and if I didn't text at some point in the day, he'd probably start to wonder where I was, but we decided against a definitive post-swim check-in system because we were both likely to forget at some point and freak each other out. He cycles a lot and the same applies.

    Oh..and as @malinaka says, never tell your mother where you're swimming.

  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNSenior Member
    I enjoy swimming alone as well and like the others, use the ISHOF bouy and swim close to shore. I always make sure someone knows I'm out there. I'll text a friend before I get in and give them a rough idea of when I will text them when I'm out. If it's too early in the morning, I'll leave a big note in my car window saying where I went in, the time, and when I expect to be out - kind of like when hikers do.
  • JbetleyJbetley UKMember
    This is something I have grappled with myself, and there are a number of things to consider.

    (1) How well do you know the location? If you are confident that there is little current like most lakes/La Jolla Cove etc, then this is a lot safer than the English Channel/fast river etc.

    (2) Is the weather good? If there is little or no chance of a storm happening in the timescale of your swim?

    (3) Are you 100% comfortable with the water temperature for the duration you have in mind?

    (4) Are there likely to be people around to raise an alarm if you get into trouble?

    (5) Is there any appreciable danger of aquatic life (Jellies, Sharks etc) ruining your day, and causing you to get into difficulties?

    Once these are all weighed up, and a risk assessment made, you can then ask yourself the question "Would it make any difference to any of these scenarios if I had someone else with me?". This is a challenging question that Dan Simonelli posed to me when I asked him how far he swam alone off La Jolla.

    Then it's your call. I have happily swum across La Jolla Cove to Scripps Pier on my own, 1.5 miles there, and the same back. It was a bit blowy and choppy, but I was comfortable. I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't done it before a couple of times with someone who knew it well!
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    Off thread but congrats to @Jbetley who completed his EC solo just over a week ago. Having seen him swim at Cork Distance week when we had to stop him swimming during the Torture Swim, the Channel never had a chance!

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
    malinaka wrote:
    First: never tell your mother where you're swimming.
    Case in point: La Jolla, circa 2003. I was staying at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club with my mother, wife and very young children. Every morning I swam from the cove and back, about 1.5 miles round trip. On the last day, Memorial Day, I started about a half hour late (mostly because the conditions were AWFUL and I stood on the beach for a long time debating whether I was up for it), but my family didn't know since they were all asleep. As I swim into the cove, there was a group of older men getting ready to embark. I assumed they were going to Scripps, so I asked them if they minded me tagging along as far as LJBTC. But they said they were doing the outer buoy route to Scripps (which would total 3.5 miles for me, round trip). I tagged along anyway. So with the start delay, I was at least 1.5 hours late returning. By that time, my family had already woken and eaten breakfast and noticed my unexpected absence. It didn't occur to me until about half-way into the swim that everyone was going to worry and by then it was really too late.

    As I entered the final stretch from Scripps to LJBTC, I was anxious about what sort of consequences my thoughtlessness might have caused. Then, as I approached the beach, I saw three lifeguard trucks and a small crowd. "Oh crap!! Is all this on my account??" Then the megaphone confirmed it: "ATTENTION SWIMMER, ATTENTION SWIMMER . . . " Yep, this was my parade! Ugh. There was my family, all lined up on the beach, straining to see if the swimmer was, in fact, me.

    It turns out, it was my mother driving the frenzy. My wife tried to convince her I was fine (but my mother ultimately convinced her I was not). The head lifeguard did, too. After he learned I was an experienced ocean swimmer, he accurately predicted: "he probably just decided to do the outer buoys, which will take him another hour or so..."

    Thankfully I arrived before they launched search and rescue!!

    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    malinaka wrote:
    First: never tell your mother where you're swimming. ( @karent will back me up on this.)
    Second: always have an exit strategy.
    I do most of my swimming alone. When I get an opportunity to swim, I just do it, whenever and wherever. I'm uncooperative and used to doing my own thing swim-wise. I like the peace and quiet. I'm also fun at parties.
    It is nice to have company sometimes too, though :)

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member
    I swim with this bouy. It's very visible, I can rest on it if I have too, it has a dry bag for my stuff and I clip my water bottle to the tether so I can hydrate on long swims. Drag is almost unnoticable.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    edited August 2014
    [img][/img]I always swim on my own and have only been run over by a boat once. Oh, and they launched the search and rescue helicopter one morning after a well intentioned member of the public told them my pile of clothes had been unattended for a couple of hours on the beach. Anyway, on long swims I tow a raft that allows me to get out of the water and rest at any time, is ultra high vis and carries all my clothes radio food cash etc. Still haven't managed to sleep on it yet, but that day will come and then my swims will take on a huge new direction.Q20NFO78WPDX.JPG
  • I frequently swim alone but in protected waters I know well. I swam a lot holiday in Sardinia last month and many times had to stop to make myself seen to passing boats which disturbs your rythmn and can cause your heart to flutter knowing these hire boats could be driven by someone on the water for the first time.

    Commonsense has to be the key factor. Conditions, your health/state of mind and other conditions described in JBetley's post above all contribute but it shouldn't put you off, if you can, do it, it's immensely pleasurable!
  • When I was 9 I almost drown in a pool. My hand got stuck in the drain and I spent almost a week in intensive care. The amazing thing is that my mother and sister were in the pool with me (no comments about parenting please!) The window for something very tragic to happen in the water is so small. Bad things can happen very quickly.

    I can't swim unless someone else is swimming with me, paddling next to me or dedicated to watching me (like a lifeguard). This frustrates me because it limits the training I can do. I am working on it, but for now, I just can't do it.
  • I don't know what it is like to swim with somebody. I mean, yeah the swim team, but that's not really "swimming" right?

    I have a OP boogie board (more faded than red anymore, I should prolly use the bright blue one) that I tied a piece of tie down to and then I tie the other side to my ankle. I figure that if something starts to go wrong (granted, I'm only talking about swims up to 4 miles (6 ish K) and I'm swimming in a tidal branch (so there might be chop but there are no waves). and I prefer to swim out against the tide and back with it (I may be wrong but it seems to me that incoming tide is less of a force in that it is pushing against water that is already there, but outgoing tide, all the water is trying to flow "downhill." Someone correct me if I'm wrong, please.) Still, when a harbor seal bumped me a couple of times...

    I think having a floatation device is a requirement (for me).

    Matter of fact the tide is right about right right now. Gotta hop out so I can dive in.
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