10 helpful safety tips for ocean swimming in Plettenberg Bay
1. Choose beaches that are considered safe for swimming and that have lifeguard assistance. The main beach of Plettenberg Bay is extremely popular as it meets these two requirements.
2. When swimming at a beach with lifeguard assistance, always swim between the red and yellow flags that are erected to demarcate suitable areas for swimming. Only swim when the lifeguards are on duty.
3. Know the universal swimmers’ signal for help: facing the beach, raise one arm above your head and wave your entire arm from side to side above you. If you can manage to tread water, use both arms and wave them over and over again above your head.
4. Keep in mind that the sea can be deceptive. Sometimes the areas of the sea with no waves can be dangerous. This is evident with rip tides which can pull a swimmer out to sea. A rip tide is a current in waveless ocean water that is strongest at the surface, pulling outwards towards the open ocean. As this NSRI picture of rip tides demonstrates, they are hard to spot unless viewed from high above. If you feel you are caught in a rip tide, stay calm and do not panic. Signal your need for help by waving your arm above your head back and forth. Let the current take you until you feel it lessen, then swim parallel to the beach to get out of the current. Follow the waves back to shore. If you cannot fight the current, float on your back, until you have the energy to swim parallel again and then back to the beach via the incoming waves. If you are at all unsure, float on your back until help arrives.
5. Never swim alone, when you are too tired, too upset or too cold.
A handy rule-of-thumb: when walking on the rocks; if the rocks are wet remember that this is evidence that the waves can reach you.
6. Know the sea tide. If you swim at low tide out to the rocks, or walk across the beach to a rocky outcrop; you may quickly find yourself stranded once the tide comes in. Use this helpful resource for ocean tide times in Plett.
7. A handy rule-of-thumb: when walking on the rocks is that if the rocks are wet, the waves can reach you. Powerful rogue waves can push bystanders off the rocks very suddenly into the ocean.
8. However tempting while swimming, never follow a floating ball or inflatable toy when it’s being swept out to sea. Rather let it go. It’s too easy to lose focus on the depth of the sea beneath you and you may find you become caught up in the current.
9. Although it may seem logical to most of us, always swim in a swimming costume (not fully clothed). It’s hard to judge the weight of clothes when wet and many a party-goer has jumped fully clothed off a boat with less than stellar results!
10. If you are ever in doubt (or in cases of emergency) contact the National Sea Rescue Institute. The Plettenberg Bay NSRI station can be reached at 082 990 5975. For assistance in Knysna contact (0445) 22675 or Metro 825610 or the South African Police Services at 21212 or 10111.
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