How to Tread Water for Beginning Swimmers
How to Wade in Water
Whether you’re attempting to cross a stream or working your way to a fishing spot, navigating untested waters can be a tricky endeavour. Knowing proper wading techniques will make the process far easier while ensuring that you stay as safe as possible.
Determining If It’s Safe to Wade
Assess how deep the water is.Before entering a body of water, approximate how deep it is by reading the land around it. If the shoreline sits just above the edge of the water and gently slopes down into it, the area is shallow and most likely safe to wade through. If cliffs or high ledges surround the water, the area is deep and may not be safe to enter.
- Some bodies of water may be shallow in 1 spot and deep in another.
- As a general rule, avoid wading through water that goes higher than your waist. For safety, do not wade through water that reaches up to your chest.
Figure out how fast the water is moving.To make sure the area is safe to wade through, throw a small stick or similar object into the water. If the object starts to move, walk along the bank to try and keep up with it. If you have to jog or run to match the object’s speed, the water current may be too fast to wade through safely.
Identify the safest path across the water.If you think the water is safe to wade through, create a mental map indicating where you intend to enter the water and where you want to exit it. For safety, pick out 1 or 2 additional exit points in case you can’t get to the first.
- You may have to alter these plans based on the area’s actual terrain.
- If the water you wish to cross has a strong current, try making a path that goes across the current so you’re not facing upstream or downstream.
Do not wade alone.For safety, make sure to bring at least 1 friend wading with you. Untested waters can be incredibly dangerous, so having someone else come along will help you avoid long-term injuries and potentially lethal accidents.
- If you absolutely must go alone, make sure to tell a friend or family member where you’ll be and what you intend to do.
Navigating the Water
Enter the water slowly.Tap a long stick or wading staff into the water to make sure it is fairly shallow. Then, place 1 foot inside the water and rest it on a flat surface. If you feel completely stable, place your other foot inside the water.
- If you can’t find secure footing, look for a different entry point.
Search for firm surfaces before taking each step.Once you’re in the water, take small, cautious steps toward your destination. Before committing to a step, feel around with your foot or wading staff to find a firm surface to stand on, such as a flat sheet of rock or the junction between boulders.
- If you cannot find secure footing, or if the water is too deep to stand in, look for a different path.
Move 1 foot at a time.For safety, make sure you have no more than 1 foot off the ground at any given time. Whenever you’re taking a step, keep your other foot firmly planted on its original resting point.
Take slow and deliberate steps.While working your way through the water, make sure every step you take is well thought out and intentional, that way you don’t end up slipping or falling into the water. Fast or random movements can cause you to lose your balance, so keep your steps as slow and steady as possible.
- Avoid taking extremely large steps since they can mess with your balance.
Widen your stance for greater stability.While in the water, spread your legs so that your feet are about shoulder-width apart. When you’re standing still, bend your knees slightly and try to keep your legs parallel. These stances will increase your overall balance and stability, making you less likely to fall into the water.
- This is especially important when wading through streams and other bodies of water where the current can knock you off your feet.
Keep an eye out for water hazards.While wading through the water, look out for any animals or debris floating your way. Though most of these will be inconsequential, some can throw off your stability and cause you to fall down. Some types of hazards to look out for include:
- Broken tree limbs
- Trash and litter
- Birds, fish, and other animals
Turn your body downstream if you want to return to shore.If you decide to go back the way you came, change directions by turning your body away from the water current. Facing the current can make you lose your balance and, in some cases, will even sweep you off your feet.
- If you’re wading through standing water, the direction you turn does not matter.
Tuck up and roll if you lose your footing.If you fall into the water or get swept off your feet, tuck up into a small ball to trap buoyant air inside your clothing. Then, roll onto your back and try to regain your balance. If you’re close to land, see if you can kick yourself to shore using a back scull or similar motion.
- Though you may be quite scared, do your best not to panic. Instead, focus on making it back to land.
Choosing Wading Gear
Choose a type of boot that matches your needs.A good pair of wading boots will help you stay dry while improving your balance and giving you better grip in the water. If you plan to wade in mostly shallow, tepid waters, go for a pair of light-weight boots. For more dangerous waters, look for heavy-duty premium boots.
- For the greatest amount of support, try to find boots that come with rubber soles and small metal grip studs.
- Look for wading boots at outdoor and fishing supply stores.
Acquire a wading staff to make navigation easier.A wading staff is a long, metal pole that has a comfortable grip handle on 1 end and a sturdy point on the other. Similar in design to walking sticks, these staffs provide additional support in the water and give you an easy tool to check the area’s depth with.
- If you can’t afford a wading staff, you can use a sturdy stick instead.
- You can find wading staffs at most fishing supply and outdoor stores.
Get full-body waders for additional protection.If you plan on wading regularly, invest in a high-quality pair of waders. These overall-style clothing items will help you stay warm and dry while in the water. Look for waders at fishing supply and outdoor stores.
- Make sure to purchase a belt for your waders to help keep water out.
Video: Learn to Swim - Treading Water
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