Water Safety: Recreational Sport Tips
When the weather gets warm, it’s tempting to pull that Jet Ski out of storage and hop right on. Or maybe your pals have invited you – the landlubber -- for a weekend of waterskiing and tubing on the lake. It’s all harmless fun, right?
Fun, certainly. But think before you play. Whatever the activity, observe these three cardinal rules:
- Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Know local weather conditions. Make sure the water and weather conditions are safe. Because water conducts electricity, it is wise to stop swimming, boating or any activities on the water as soon as you see or hear a storm. Also, heavy rains can make certain areas dangerous.
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim, period.
On a personal watercraft (Jet Ski)
- Know your local laws and regulations. Some states have special laws governing the use of personal watercraft (PWC) which address operations, registration and licensing requirements, education, required safety equipment and minimum ages.
- Operate your PWC with courtesy and common sense. Follow the traffic pattern of the waterway. Obey no-wake and speed zones.
- Use extreme caution around swimmers and surfers. Run your PWC at a slow speed until the craft is away from shore, swimming areas, and docks. Avoid passing close to other boats and jumping wakes. This behavior is dangerous and often illegal.
- Ride with a buddy. PWCs should always travel in groups of two or three. You never know when an emergency might occur.
- Alcohol and water don’t mix. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination. For the same reasons it is dangerous to operate an automobile, people should not operate a PWC after drinking alcohol.
- Be sure the boat and ski equipment are in good shape.
- Watch the water ahead of you at all times.
- Have an extra person aboard to watch and assist the skier.
- Run parallel to shore and come in slowly when landing. Sit down if coming in too fast.
- Always turn the boat motor completely off when you approach a fallen skier.
- Do not ski at night or in restricted areas.
Tubing and rafting
- Do not overload the raft.
- Do not go rafting after a heavy rain.
- When rafting with a tour company, make sure the guides are qualified. Check with the local chamber of commerce for listings of accredited tour guides and companies.
Sailboarding and windsurfing
Wear a wet suit in cold water to prevent hypothermia.
- Practice in shallow water.
- Check the equipment carefully and know how it functions.
- Learn how to clear water from the snorkel.
- Learn how to put your mask back on when you tread water.
- Be careful not to swim or be carried by a current too far from shore or the boat.
- Never snorkel alone.