How to stay safe when wild swimming

Following the deaths of two men whilst swimming in a waterfall in Snowdonia, Hannah Rose looks at the best ways to stay safe when wild swimming. 

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Two men have died this weekend after swimming in a pool beneath a waterfall in Snowdonia. 

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The men, aged 33 and 21, got into difficulties in a rocky lagoon under the 100ft Ceunant Mawr waterfall (pictured), also known as Llanberis Falls, near the Snowdon Mountain Railway viaduct. 

The police were alerted that four people were in difficulty at 8.30am on Sunday 7th June, and a helicopter was dispatched to the scene. Two men were found alive, and two bodies were discovered in the water. The two surviving men were treated at hospital and released. 

It is believed that the two men who died could have become trapped in white water. The falls are known for being cold and fast-flowing all year round. 

Ten tips to stay safe when wild swimming 

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1. Know your ability

If you have young children who are non or un-confident swimmers, think twice before allowing them to swim. Inflatables are great for swimming pools but in wild waters can just lead to a false sense of security as they are easily popped or can drift into deeper, faster-moving waters. Young children should have constant supervision and a good quality buoyancy aid is recommended.

2. Check the current

If you discover a river of cool water and you’re itching to dive in, check the water’s flow first. Throw in a stick or branch – if it floats off faster than you can swim, don’t get in.

3. Gage the depth

Diving or jumping should be carried out with great caution, even if you frequent a particular spot. Rocks, sand, branches and even rubbish may have been swept downstream, creating shallow patches. Always check depth before you dive/jump.

4. Starting to shiver?

Outdoor swimming spots are often cold, even in the summer months, so zip yourself up in a wetsuit if you plan on a long swim. If your teeth start chattering or you’re starting to shiver then jump out, dry yourself, put on some dry clothing and do some light exercise to heat your body back up.

5. Have an escape plan

It’s key in wild swimming to always know and plan your escape routes, in case you get into trouble and need to get out fast. Scout out shallow areas that will be easy to scramble out of, in case of an emergency.

6. Know your algae

Blue-green algae is a slippery and even potentially dangerous substance. Avoid if possible. If it’s rife, move to a different location. It’s most commonly found around lakes in the late summer, and can cause skin rash, irritation to the eyes and sickness if swallowed. 

7. Take a buddy

Avoid swimming alone. A friend will maximise your safety when wild swimming, and as a bonus it’ll your swim will be more enjoyable. If swimming with a friend isn’t possible then trail a float behind you on a cord and wear a colourful swim hat and lifejacket.

8. Watch out for reeds

Weeds and reeds can be annoying but one or two are harmless. If you swim into reeds which become dense, avoid thrashing or fast movements and use your arms to swim away from that area.

9. Don’t swim wounded

Try not to swim with an open wound in wild waters as it may get infected. Always cover up nicks and scratches with a good quality water resistant plaster.

10. Be prepared for cramps!

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Cramps are uncomfortable at the best of times, but in water they can be extremely dangerous. Dehydration and excessive strain on the muscle can cause cramp – if this does occur swim backstroke back to shore and rehydrate before swimming again.