Swimming in the sea poses greater challenges

We are saddened by the death of the 12-year-old schoolboy who drowned while swimming off East Coast Park (Do more to equip youth with swimming skills: Tharman; May 10).

While the ability to swim is important, many swimmers learn to swim only in a swimming pool.

They are likely to face greater challenges when swimming in the sea.

The same challenges may also be faced by beach-goers who enter the sea just to play.

Pools are purpose built for swimming. However, the sea is not.

Swimming in the sea is much more dangerous, and there are several reasons for this.

They include the presence of tides, strong currents and underwater hazards like sudden drop-offs and submerged objects.

Sea water temperature, quality and visibility may also vary widely.

The conditions, even at the same spot in the sea, are seldom constant.

This basically means that one's ability to swim in the pool is not equivalent to one's ability to swim in the sea, river or other waters.

In short, swimming ability is situational.

The majority of swimming programmes are pool-based and teach competitive strokes that do not involve participants learning in the sea environment or surviving in open water.

Unfortunately, most people who learn to swim in the pool environment assume that they are equipped to swim in the sea.

Another important point to note is that people should swim only in areas with lifeguards, as they can help to prevent drownings by, among other things, watching for and helping those in distress.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk

President

Singapore Life Saving Society

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'Swimming in the sea poses greater challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe