Why you need to be aware of swimming in Lake Michigan

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 5:28 PM EDT
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BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) - Flags flew yellow on Monday at Silver Beach County Park, a sign to swimmers to approach the water with caution.

“So there’s this misconception like, ‘Hey, I know how to swim or my child knows how to swim. I don’t have to worry about them drowning.’ And the problem with that, it’s kind of like saying, ‘Hey, I know how to run. I could run a marathon.’ People don’t, you know, relate knowing how to swim and recreational swimming as an endurance sport,” explained Dave Benjamin, Co-founder of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP).

It’s endurance anyone needs for navigating Lake Michigan, where nearly half of all drownings occur among all Great Lakes. GLSRP points to a lack of lifeguards and not enough signage on many beaches in the state.

“It’s getting better. But unfortunately, water safety still is lacking in many areas across the Great Lakes. We’re working on improving that,” Benjamin said.

Part of that is through public education.

“The real thing is, is people don’t play in fire, but they know fire survival strategy,” he said. “Everyone plays in water, and very few people know a drowning survival strategy.”

According to GLSRP, anyone in a dangerous current who is also showing signs of drowning should flip, float, and follow.

-Flip onto your back

-Float to keep yourself calm and your head above water to help conserve energy

-Follow a safe path out of the water

If you’re in a rip current - when you’re being pulled away from the shore - GLSRP says a swimmer should flip and float; swim parallel to the shore; and then swim back to shore.

Click here to watch the new GLSRP educational video about handling different types of currents.

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