Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Don’t Think You Need A Lifejacket?

Take It From A Swimmer: ‘Yes, You Do’!

I have heard many a boater say, “I don't need a lifejacket. I am a good swimmer.”

I am too. And I used to think the same thing. I thought I didn't need a life jacket unless it was rough water and I could not see land. I was confident I could easily swim to shore in the tiny Arizona lakes.

At least I felt that way until I finished an Ironman swim.

I competed in a 2.4-mile swim at Tempe Town Lake, finishing with a respectable time. Got to the ramp, put my feet under me to jog the 10 feet to the finish, but they just would not hold my weight. I curled onto my knees and struggled to crawl to the top of the ramp. I almost couldn't do it.

It was embarrassing and awful to drag myself with Jello-wiggly arms to the end. I could barely hold up my torso and my legs would not move as I directed them. The lifeguards eyed me as I struggled to the finish.

The water was 58 degrees — as cold as most Arizona waterways are for much of the year. I was well protected from the chilly water with a full wet suit and a neoprene hood. Only my face, hands and feet were exposed, yet in the hour and 17 minutes in the water, I had lost the ability to support my own weight.

Few people realize it takes an Ironman championship swimmer about 20 minutes to swim a mile in open water, yet most people believe they can easily swim a mile. I knew then, as a fact, if I ever had to swim a mile in cold water without a wet suit (which offers some buoyancy) or a life jacket, I would drown.

Now when someone says, "Don't need a life jacket. I'm a good swimmer." I wince. I know they are fooling themselves, just like I had."


LPSC sailor/swimmer


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