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Simple safety tips for water sports enthusiasts

Bodies of water like lakes, rivers and oceans often elicit fond memories of fun times spent under the sun. Safety should always be a priority when spending time on the water, especially when participating in water sports, including swimming and water skiing.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 40 people die by drowning every hour of every day, which equates to around 372,000 deaths each year. Many of those deaths, the vast majority of which occur in low- or middle-income countries, are preventable, and safety is at the core of drowning prevention. Though drowning incidents are not as prevalent in the United States and Canada as they are elsewhere in the world, the popularity of water sports in both countries underscores the importance of revisiting the various ways to stay safe when out on the water.

Take water sports lessons. The carefree nature of spring and summer can make it easy for water sports enthusiasts to forgo lessons before trying their hands at water skiing and wakeboarding. But such lessons can teach people techniques that can keep them safe on the water. Courses teach everything from how to get up and out of the water to how to properly handle a tow rope. They also can teach boaters how to navigate waters while towing skiers, tubers and wakeboarders.

Learn hand signals and go over them before getting in the water. The National Safety Council emphasizes the importance of basic hand signals, which can be used to help boaters communicate with the people they’re towing. Hand signals are vital because water sports tend to be noisy, so nonverbal communication may be the only way boaters can communicate with the people they’re towing. Signals can be used to communicate anything from directions of turns to speed requests to the condition of the person being towed. A list of hand signals can be found at www.boaterexam.com/safety/safety-common-hand-signals.aspx.

Inspect tow lines. The NSC advises inspecting tow lines prior to beginning. Such inspections can confirm that tow lines are not caught in the propeller or wrapped around anyone before the activity begins.

Wait for the propeller to stop before getting back on the boat. People being towed should always wait for propellers to stop before climbing back into the boat. It doesn’t take long for propellers to stop, and those extra few seconds can dramatically reduce risks for accidents or injuries.

Avoid water sports at night. Visibility is compromised once the sun goes down. That can make it hard for boaters to see any obstacles that might appear in the water, and it also makes it very difficult for them to communicate with the people they’re towing. As a result of such difficulties, the NSC urges water sports enthusiasts to only engage in such activities during daylight hours.

Water sports make summer even more fun. Safety should always be the utmost priority for anyone involved in such activities.

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