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Spring break offers a lesson in water safety

Guest entry by Carolyn Tees, Senior Manager, First Aid, Swimming and Water Safety

How important is swimming? I don’t think you ever really think about it, but there are times when it hits you. I had my son in Red Cross Swim lessons and he did very well. But it was all in the pool.

For spring break we took a family trip to Maui. Wow!  Sunshine in March. And we got to go snorkeling for the first time as a family. My son and I set off, with our waterproof camera in hand. Planning to capture the fish and elusive octopus...It was so clear, so many fish to see, and quickly I lost track of time. My son and I were both smiling and ecstatic when we nearly swam into two sea turtles eating kelp in the waves.

Surfing on vacationI pointed upwards and we took a look around us above the surface. We were a really long way from shore above the reef. For a second I was happy to be alone with my son and enjoying this special moment. But I suddenly looked at him. We were really far out. Clearly another 25 or more minutes of snorkeling was needed to get back to shore. Open water is very different. It isn’t like the pool.  I know my son could do more than 500 metres in the pool.  But had I brought him out too far and was he getting really tired (and perhaps cold – water in Maui isn’t warm – don’t be shocked)?  It was a reality check.  My son can swim, as can I,  I forget to be aware of the risks. The other part of learning to swim is about making safe choices and being water safety aware.  In the excitement of the day, we forgot. Fortunately, while tired, my son and I made it back. He was asleep by 8 that night.

It has made me think. And on our second trip we are going to pay attention. We'll check how far we are out, our level of fatigue, and make sure we remain water safe. I won’t forget the sea turtles or the lesson.

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