When you stand on the seashore or coast line before an open water swim, do you really observe what the open body of water is doing and know what exists below the surface?

Do you understand the possible marine life that lives in the depths in the area? Do you know what the currents are doing and where they are flowing? Have you read the tide charts before going in? Do you know if windsurfers, kayakers, or rowers will share the waterway with you? From what direction?

Have you told others where are swimming or how long you plan to swim? Do the local lifeguards or fisherman have valuable information to share? Do you have ICE (In Case of Emergency*) on your mobile phone? Have you discussed what to do – or not to do – in an emergency if a swimmer is hurt or missing? Have you memorized exactly where you got in, especially in an unfamiliar beach? Are you going to meet up at certain points if there are a group of swimmers of various speeds?

And there are minor issues to address: Did you hydrate enough prior to your swim? Have you put enough sunscreen on or skin ointment on places where you might chafe? Do you carry an extra pair of goggles or a spare swim cap? Did you charge up your GPS unit or waterproof camera? Did you put enough money in the parking meter? Did you chill or warm your drink before heading down to the beach?

There are lots and lots of questions to ask yourself, but these are the sorts of mental checklist of issues that experienced open water swimmers automatically address before heading out to the big blue.

* ICE was developed by British paramedic Bob Brotchie in 2005 It encourages people to enter their emergency contacts in their mobile phone under the name ICE. Swimmers can also list multiple emergency contacts as ICE1, ICE2, etc.

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