Well, I seem not to be satisfied with a weekend of rest and instead prefer to adventure. This drives my husband a little crazy so many times Ryan (my son) comes with me. This weekend I was lucky enough to have both Ryan and my husband Dave join me in my adventuring. This weekend we loaded up and went off to explore Lake Murry in Ardmore, Oklahoma. I got a new paddleboard that I wanted to try out and my husband wanted to go to a lake that was more like the lakes we have back home. That is a very nice way to say that they have a blue or green color and are not completely brown.
Being that I am a “water” person, I always take in what is going on around me and MOST times, I end up doing a bit of lifeguarding. This trip was no exception, however, I did get to relax a bit as we went early on Sunday morning, when most people were at church.
I tested my paddleboard and loved it. Ryan tried it too. We were in an area that was a bit windy and it took a lot of effort to get back to where we started, so it was a good workout. But that isn’t what I am writing about, I am writing about what I saw at the lake, in regard to water safety and swimming lessons. I can tell you; I saw a lot.
First off, I love the idea of this lifejacket borrowing system. It is great if it is fully stocked full of jackets that fit every size. However, if you come to the lake expecting to borrow a lifejacket and cannot find one, you are out of luck. I know from my years as an Aquatic Director, that bad things happen when one little thing goes wrong. If one family comes to the lake expecting to borrow a lifejacket and they don’t have the correct size, or enough, but they go in the lake anyway, that is how things go from an awesome day to an accident. Regardless, this is a great idea if you can keep it user ready.
I saw one or two adults with multiple non-swimming children that may or may not be in lifejackets. Most were in puddle jumpers, of which I am not a fan of. Regardless, it is not possible to have sufficient supervision of multiple non-swimming children and one adult. If this is ratio of adults to children that you have, I would suggest going to a splash pad. This is not an effective way to supervise your children around a body of water.
I also saw a man trying to teach his children to swim. I was impressed how well the children were doing, despite his limited knowledge of teaching. He was teaching freestyle. He taught them the pull, the kick and the body position which consequently happened because their heads were down. However, he did not teach them to breathe or float on their back. This great if you are swimming a 5-yard sprint to the shore. It is not so great if you are trying to swim any distance or must swim to sustain your life.
One of the more disturbing things I saw was a woman holding her newborn baby and walking out into the water from the shore. I had walked in and out of the water a few times and stepped on rocks, stubbed my toe, and nearly fell multiple times that day so I had to watch. She is more skilled than I am, but she managed to walk out into the water with the baby and not fall. Thank goodness because I would hate to see a mom and baby fall into the water with who knows what underneath them.
Another thing I notices is the many lifejackets that were not being worn or were being worn incorrectly. I even say someone take off the lifejacket, throw it and swim to it. What happens if the wind blows it (like it did to me on my paddleboard)? What happens if in trying to retrieve it, the swimmer grows tired? What happens to the child that is wearing their legs through the arm holes when a wave comes and they get knocked back? Lifejackets are to be worn in open bodies of water like rivers, lakes and oceans. Wear a properly fitted lifejacket and wear it correctly.
The decisions people make while in and around the water gave me cause for concern. I am certain that parents want what is best for their children and do their best to protect them, while engaging them with a fun activity. However, there is a lack of knowledge around the dangers of the water, the importance of swimming lessons and how best to supervise your children while around the water. I have been reminded again that we (all of us in aquatics) have more work to do to prevent drownings.