Open water events have grown in popularity over the last decade all over the world. There are now an estimated 25,000-30,000 open water events across the globe annually.
Virginia and surrounding states along the east coast are also seeing a surge in open water participation. Marathon swims, multi-sport events, Swim-Run’s, open water sprints, beach swims, and river races have all exploded. This growth in popularity brings a lot of new people exposed to less controlled environments.
Every event has risks. When you add an uncontrolled aquatic environment to the equation, safety is paramount. In July of 2019, one man tragically drowned during the Robius Landing Triathlon in Richmond, VA. This sparked Dan Jones, Division Head for Recreation and Aquatic Activities for the City of Norfolk to start thinking about safety training specifically for open water events.
“Everybody goes home from an event. That is goal #1” – Greg Hawkins, Founder and Race Director for Kinetic Sports
Dan is a legend when it comes to water safety training in Virginia and surrounding states. He was labeled a “Coastal Chapter Hero” by the American Red Cross after a life-saving rescue while off-duty in 2017. In early 2020, Dan decided to develop an Open Water Safety Training program. The goal was not to reinvent the wheel. He wanted to build on the skills of professional rescuers to seamlessly integrate safety tactics for these events.
“There is no national standard for open water event guarding” – Ted Quinn, Director of Safety School for SwimRVA
The safety training included a long list of points of emphasis. Here are a few things they practiced:
- Open water vs. swimming pool safety
- Use of sit-on kayak
- Use of surf rescue board
- Use of masks and fins
- Communication standards
- Types of equipment
- Water safety event operations
- Search and rescue team drills
The first open water safety training was a huge success! This is only the beginning but a huge first step in developing a standard for safety in all open water events. Dan wants to know what you think. Please reach out to him to inquire about additional training locally and around the state. Currently, kayak volunteer training is underway.
The Mission of SwimRVA is to elevate swimming in the Richmond region making water safety and aquatic fitness more accessible to all. We promise to catalyze regional aquatics and community-wide focus on water safety, health and fitness, sports tourism, and competitive aquatics. Donate today to help support our mission