On my first live broadcast from the legendary Asbury Park promenade, I had the privilege of meeting local Oceanic expert Don Walsh. Speak of an awesome person … Don is on a mission to teach others about safety at sea, prepare Olympic swimmers and even prepare Navy SEAL candidates for rigorous aquatic missions. So when I had questions about my kids and the currents, I’m pretty sure I asked the right guy.
Just check out this resume … he has competed in open water races ranging from 1 mile to 10 km for the past 41 years. He completed these swim marathons: Key West (12.5 miles) … Mays Landing River (21 miles) … Manhattan Island (28.5 miles – 3 times) … and Jersey Island in England (41.5 miles). He has coached at club, high school and college level. In addition, Don has traveled the country for 6 years working with two former Olympic swimmers and Olympic swimming coaches to organize swimming clinics for high schools, colleges and adult triathletes. And for 22 years, he has taught Combat Side Stroke and mentored more than 7,400 Navy SEAL candidates. Of course, he did not leave out the little ones … Don has also written a children’s book on safety at sea, called “Teach the Beach”.
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What is the biggest danger we need to watch out for when swimming in the ocean? Rip Currents … generally we have a SE wind during summer afternoons. Winds push surface water against rocks and wooden jetties, creating a backflow as the water rushes out to sea.
What safety advice would you give to parents of children who have difficulty swimming? Even if you go to the same beach every summer, it’s a good idea to talk to lifeguards before you go for a swim. Storms change their background during the winter and where you could stand last summer you may not be able to stand this summer. Lifeguards are the beach experts and will advise you on where to swim safely. As always … “When in doubt, don’t go out!”
What defines a good swimmer? A strong swimmer is someone who knows the right technique and trains for open water. Just because you can swim comfortably in a pool doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the same comfort in the ocean with waves, currents (return currents and currents), tides, and cooler water than in a swimming pool. . Not to mention the lack of visual feedback to keep you on track like lane lines and lines at the bottom of the pool.
How does someone condition themselves to hold their breath for longer underwater? Conditioning yourself to hold your breath underwater is not a good idea. Even though recruits must swim underwater the length of a 50 meter pool at BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition SEALs), we are not allowed to teach our candidates as it is not safe. If a candidate pushes his or her limits and passes out in a swimming pool, it can be fatal. We teach them how to swim effectively underwater but only over very short distances.
What do you do if you get caught in a rip current or get stuck in the water? Call for help and wave your arms to alert people on the beach. If you get caught in a reverse current, DO NOT fight the current, let it take you out to sea past the waves. Once you get past the waves you can swim or paddle doggy style around the current to shore or float on your back until help arrives (first responder – police). You are very buoyant in salt water, so it should be easy to float on your back.
Can we identify the return currents before entering the water and what would we experience if we got caught in one of them? Return currents are usually a different color from the rest of the water and are usually found next to a rock or wooden jetty. They can also be found in the middle of the beach if there is a break in the sand bar where water can collect and flow back out to sea. DO NOT fight against the current … swim or paddle doggy style parallel to the beach to get out of the current. If you can’t swim or paddle with your dog … Flip … Float … & Follow … Flip on your back … Float … And follow the current past waves and danger . Once past the return current, you can swim or row doggy style all the way to shore. Keep in mind that a return current does not pull you underwater, it pulls you out to sea beyond the waves.
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