Water safety

There are several important rules that apply to all water sports. The sportsman/woman should have the right equipment and the right instruction; engage inthe sport with a buddy; and avoid the use of alcohol or medication that maycause impaired judgment. Nonswimmers account for two thirds of all drowning victims annually; swimming is an important life skill to be learned from an early age. Children should never swim unsupervised. If a swimmer gets into trouble, efforts to reach the victim should be made by extending an oar, tree branch or pole. If the victim cannot be reached, qualified help must be called,as even a competent swimmer can be pulled under by a drowning person.

Underwater diving or skin diving is not a sport that can be undertaken casually. Planning carefully with a diving table will indicate allowable times at specific depths, and time needed to resurface. Divers should utilize a good timer, depth gauge, and fly a diving flag and/or use a surface marker buoy. Caution must be taken to equalize pressure on the eardrums as the diver goes down, to prevent eardrum rupture at about 30 feet. Diving should be avoided withcolds or flu, that may prevent clearing of the Eustachian tubes. "The bends," or decompression sickness, the fundamental mechanism of which is a too-rapid reduction in pressure, such as might occur from too rapid an ascent from deep-sea diving. The result is that the increased nitrogen in the blood, and especially in lipid stores, that has occurred under the influence of the increased pressure, effervesces into the various tissues, producing gas emboli in the bones, joints, central nervous system, and blood, frequently with fatal consequences. Slow decompression permits the dissolved nitrogen to diffuse gradually into the blood and be eliminated by the lungs.

Surfing is a physically demanding sport, that requires the participant to bea competent swimmer in good physical condition. Care must be taken in handling the board out of the water, to avoid injury to bystanders. The board shouldbe carried under the arm with the fin turned inward. Before taking a wave, the surfer should stay clear of swimmers and other surfers; the first surfer on a wave has the right of way.

Safety in water-skiing depends as much on those in the skiboat as on the skier. Two people in the boat allows one to concentrate on navigation, while theother translates the skierís hand signals. Both skiers and boaters should becompetent swimmers, and wear a lifejacket and clothing to suit the weather conditions. Water skiing should be enjoyed in daylight hours only, and never inunfamiliar or shallow water.

Boaters should be competent swimmers and wear a personnel flotation device(PFD). All motorized boats must carry a fire extinquisher and, and every memberof the crew must know how to operate the equipment. Before boating, a responsible person should be informed of destination and expected return time. The use of Personal Watercraft (PWC) has increased significantly over recent years, and so, unfortunately has the number of PWC-related accidents reported to the U. S. Coast Guard. More than 26 states have adapted PWC laws, as developedby the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. These lawsaddress minimum operator age to 16 years, require all operators and passengers to wear life jackets, and prohibit nighttime and reckless operation. Additional laws are being developed to address specific issues of unsafe operatingpatterns, including jumping wakes closely behind large vessels. Several states are requiring completion of a boater education course before use of a PWC.Continued vigilance and attention to the general rules of water safety can help assure enjoyable experiences in water sports.

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