Be Safe Around the Watering Hole

“High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water.” ~Mark Twain

Dr. Sasser and Son fishingChildhood memories are often murky. Do I remember the event? Did someone tell me about that moment? Was I really there, or did I only hear someone else’s story and integrate it into my past? To this day, my mother and I still debate about salmon croquettes. She swears that when I was young, I used to love salmon croquettes. I have no recollection of a salmon croquette ever crossing the threshold of my lips followed by a satisfied swallow and vocal “yum!” I have never liked salmon croquettes and doubt I ever will.

Just recently, I was talking to a friend who grew up on St. Simons Island with me. We were having a fine time reminiscing on childhood adventures and hangouts: riding our bikes to St. Simons Elementary, crabbing on the pier, bowling downstairs at the Casino and roller-skating up on its roof. (That is old school if you remember skating at the Casino!) She went on to talk about how much fun we used to have at swim team practice. SCREEECH!!! She related all those early morning, chilly, over-chlorinated experiences as happy moments, but that’s where her story derailed from my memories. I liked the kids on the swim team. The coach was great, but the whole swimming thing was not my thing. I was a slow swimmer and never got faster despite the back and forth, swimming lap after lap in the attempt to get faster. I did learn the basics of every stroke and had a funky greenish hue to my hair around mid-June.

One of my childhood memories that I remember with crystal-clear clarity and hold dear is the summer I took swim lessons from Mrs. Alice Bradford. She lived at the end of East Beach in a beautiful house that looked over Gould’s Inlet. Years later I would fish away an entire summer on the rocks in front of her house. She had a kidney bean-shaped pool surrounded by a garden landscaped with large succulents and lined with river rock. She would slowly coax us into the pool to teach basic swimming: blowing bubbles, doggy paddle and freestyle. At the end of each lesson, we all got to pick a rock from the garden and drop it in the pool to practice swimming underwater. To this day, I remember the impossible feat of trying to swim the four feet down to grab one of those river rocks. I still don’t think I needed those early morning swim practices, but the swim lessons with Mrs. Bradford were priceless.

With summer right around the corner, there are many opportunities, especially on the coast, to enjoy the water and stave off the South Georgia heat. Pools, rivers, lakes, water parks and a day at the beach can be a real treat on a hot day. However, the water needs to be respected. Adhering to some safety guidelines can prevent injury, or even worse, death. First off, we all need to remember that drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among kids under the age of 14. It can happen fast, in less than 2 minutes, so water safety is important.

Basic Water Safety Rules

  • Get swim lessons! Unless your child is not going to be around water, ever, they should get swim lessons (a.k.a., everyone should get swim lessons). Also, if you are a parent and can’t swim, get lessons with your child. You can’t help your child if you can’t swim.
  • Swim with a buddy.
  • Swim at a depth that is safe. If you are inexperienced or not a strong swimmer, stay in areas where your feet can touch.
  • Never dive in headfirst. Over 1,700 spinal cord injuries from diving accidents are reported each year.
  • Don’t push or jump onto others.
  • Wear sun protection and reapply often.
  • Drink lots of fluids!
  • Toys that float are just toys. They can’t save your life. Make sure flotation devices are Coast Guard approved.
  • Stop swimming as soon as you see lightning or hear thunder, and wait at least one hour before resuming swimming after the last sighting. Electricity near water is a dangerous situation.

Beaches

It’s hard to beat a day on the beach, but you’ll need to know some safety rules for swimming in the ocean. This is especially pertinent for South Georgia where tides can fluctuate six to eight feet on average.

  • Never swim alone!
  • Always swim where a lifeguard can see you and in an area marked for swimmers.
  • Never swim too close to piers. Currents and waves can quickly push you against pylons or rocks. Also, there are many hidden structures beneath the pier that may cause injury.
  • Face the waves. Waves can knock you down if you have your back to them.
  • Don’t swim out too far.
  • If you get caught by a rip current that pulls you away from shore, the first thing to do is relax. Don’t fight it. Start swimming parallel with the shore until you feel the current abate, then swim diagonally toward the shore.
  • Check the tide table.***I cannot stress this enough*** Every year, several drowning or near drowning experiences occur when folks walk out to the sandbar, and the tide changes quickly, trapping them hundreds of yards from the beach. A few years ago, a friend of mine and I were paddle boarding in Gould’s inlet and rushed to the aid of an entire family who tried to cross the inlet as the tide came in. Luckily, we got everyone back safely. Of the five people, two adults and three children, no one knew how to swim, and they didn’t realize the tide came in so fast.

I know these are a lot of rules, but they can be summed up in one sentence: learn to swim, look out for others, and know your limitations/environment. I hope everyone has a great safe summer. If you see me out, I would appreciate help putting on my floaties.

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