Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

Unfamiliar with the ocean, not stupid

July 9, 2015

In my years as a lifeguard in Canada, I rescued maybe three or four people.  Here in Korea, as a capable citizen who happened to be in the right place, I’ve rescued around ten.

In neither case am I describing technically demanding rescues.  My frequent training at in-services and yearly testing in rescues involving spinal injuries has never been tested nor has my CPR know-how.

To be honest, I do remember rescuing a few people in Canada but the details were so minor that I don’t remember what they were.  Here in Korea, all ten people were riding inner tubes or inflatables when the wind blew away from shore with greater power than the rider could paddle against and so were carried out to sea.

I must admit I  thought the inflatable riders were stupid to put themselves at risk if they couldn’t swim.  An incident in Canada, involving an Ontario man pulled to sea by ocean tides and currents in Nova Scotia has made me consider otherwise.

Despite the callous online comments on last week’s story about an Ontario man luckily rescued after being swept to sea at Peggys Cove, the meme of the “friendly” Nova Scotian is not a myth.

Visitors might be forgiven for thinking otherwise after reading the often heartless remarks that met a Toronto man’s call for more to be done to ensure people’s safety at the iconic location after his friend had nearly drowned when a large wave pulled him from the rocks last Thursday afternoon.

Some examples: You can’t fix stupid. Darwinism. Idiots without common sense. And so on.

As if it’s not possible for someone with no experience of the ocean to be simply completely unfamiliar with the danger presented by the powerful, unpredictable Atlantic Ocean. People who didn’t grow up here and don’t live here, and who may not have seen — yes, they do get missed by some visitors — any of the warning signs, but who, according to the above “logic,” somehow deserve whatever they get.

There is at least one big difference.  Nova Scotia is famous for the largest tides in the world.  The Bay of Fundy is quite a distance from Peggy’s Cove but still runs two metres.

I don’t think I would blame a Korean an encounter with poison ivy because he or she would have no reason to be wary of it.  As a measure of my own (lack of) intelligence, I had poison ivy rashes three times in one year and not as a child, either.

I still think water is a universal.  It’s everywhere.  I don’t think all Koreans get swimming lessons in grade four as Ontario school children do, but they take baths.  I cannot fully excuse a Korean that gets in trouble in the water but I will be a little more tolerant from now on.


I want one: more on risky swimming

August 27, 2010

A Nevada Family has an underwater fort.  They place a tightly woven net over a vinyl sheet, anchor it firmly and inflate it.

They take the structure down after each visit and it is only something to play in, but it is a step in the right direction.

Some people don’t like swimming within the buoy-line

August 27, 2010

Let me redact the location reference in this quote from The Economist:

You have to stay inside the dinky little waist-deep swimming areas, with their bobbing lines of white buoys. There you are, under a deep blue …. summer sky, the lake laid out like a mirror in front of you and the rocks on the far shore gleaming under a bristling comb of red pine; you plunge in, strike out across the water, and tweet! A parks official blows his whistle and shouts after you. “Sir! Sir! Get back inside the swimming area!” What is this, summer camp? Henry David Thoreau never had to put up with this. It offends the dignity of man and nature. You want to shout, with Andy Samberg: “I’m an adult!”

I feel the same way. Well, I don’t really know if I’m a Thoreau fan, but the rest; yes.  I just want some open water to actually swim in.

Oh, the location is any Massachusetts state park.

The reason for the restriction appears well-intentioned, I must admit. And it might be.  Reducing drowning deaths is hard to argue against.  However, at least part of the reason is financial- to reduce liability costs.  This is also good, but bean-counting our way to a nanny state doesn’t appeal to me.

The park officials in Massachusetts aren’t really trying to minimise the risk that you might drown. They’re trying to minimise the risk that you might sue. The problem here, as Mr Howard says, isn’t simply over-regulation as such. It’s a culture of litigiousness and a refusal to accept personal responsibility. When some of the public behave like children, we all get a nanny state.

Yeah, nobody wanted the Aqua Assault RoboFighters to be recalled.

The Economist article contains many links, including one to a TED Talk on fixing the legal system.

Before looking -very superficially- at Korea, let me check out drowning deaths in Canada.

At least 237 people have drowned this year in Canada. That’s an increase of nine per cent from the same time last year, according to the Lifesaving Society, a group committed to water safety.

Many of the deaths have occurred in Ontario….

She [Lifesaving Society spokesperson Barbara Byers] said parents need to keep a close watch on their young children around pools.

“If you’re not within arms reach, you have gone too far,” said Byers. “And you have to have your eyes absolutely locked on the child. I think some people think they will have lots of time (to react).”

Rivers and beaches have also been the sites of several deaths this year….

The Ontario Coroner’s Office says it will look at all the drowning deaths between May and the end of August, to see if any recommendations can be made to make the province’s pools, rivers and lakes safer for swimming.

Quick public service announcement:  Drowning doesn’t look like drowning!

Briefly, drowning people don’t and can’t  call for help, nor can they wave for help.  They are too focused on getting their mouth high enough to breathe.  They can’t get their arms out of the water to wave them.

The warning comes from Dr. Frank Pia, who has been in the biz for a long time.  I learned how to do the Pia carry twenty-five years ago.

Next Public Service Announcement: Be leery of the advice coming from Busan eFM!

I like eFM.  I want Busan’s English radio station to do well.  However, a month ago, I listened in horror to one of their PSAs.  One bit of advice for beachgoers was, “If you go into deep water, bring a tube or inflatable to protect yourself.”

No, no, no!  If you can’t swim, don’t go into deep water! Fer Cryin’ Out Loud!  If your child can’t swim, don’t let him/her go into the water at all unless you are nearby!

Okay, back to Canada:

…a study released Thursday suggests immigrants are four times more likely to be unable to swim than native-born Canadians.

The study, conducted by the Lifesaving Society, found that about one in five newcomers don’t know how to swim, compared to one in 20 people born in Canada. The research is being billed as the first in Canada to examine the links between ethnicity and the ability to swim. …

Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death in Canada for children under the age of 10. …

The report’s release comes amid a spate of drowning deaths across the country, including 10 in a recent 10-day period in Ontario from the end of June to the beginning of July. …

Byers said that during heat waves, people are often more inclined to go to swimming pools to cool off. In a normal year, about one of every 10 drowning deaths happens in a pool. This year, 28 per cent of deaths have occurred at pools, including five of the 10 in Ontario.

It is hard to discuss Korean drowning rates.  I can only imagine they must be high because of the great restrictions imposed on those who want to swim here.  I do recall in Sokcho a few years ago, a school group on a class trip went to Sokcho beach and returned to their dorm rooms, there to discover they were one short.  Again, better observation of the young should be common sense.

Pools in Korea typically have a ‘rest period’ of ten minutes per hour.  This allows the guards to be sure the pool is clear and the patrons to regain their strength so they are safer.  And too bad to the patron who is on a tight schedule and ends up losing ten minutes of their swimming time.

The water level at the beautiful pool at Sajik Sports Complex is deliberately  kept at 60%.*  The depth should be around two metres, but instead is 1.3 metres.  This is a great depth for standing but it feels weird to be in a pit, with walls rising high above you.  It would be hard to drown, though.

Okay, it is difficult to search for Korean drowning deaths but I did learn that North Korea is not waving, it is drowning.

In 2006, seventy-six teenagers drowned.


*I don’t know what that means for the filter system.  The water looks clear and clean, but normally most contaminants are on the water surface and the skimmers, in this case, are a metre above the surface.

Cooling Off in Busan

August 5, 2010

I really haven’t spent much time at the beach.  SongDo Beach is the closest and also a quiet, pleasant place, but it is nearly thirty minutes from my apartment.

In Sokcho, by contrast, the beach was less than twenty minutes by bike away.  The water was also clearer and cleaner.

On the other hand, the good bikini beach in Gangwon was an hour away (Kyeongpo in Gangneung)  and also an hour away in Busan (Haeundae).  Girls wear bikinis  at all beaches, but also wear T-shirts and shorts at most.  Only at Kyeongpo and Haeundae can you find bare midriffs.

Anyway, below are photos (click to embiggen) of how the little guy and I have been cooling off.

From the top-left: DaDaePo beach – it is close and fun, but the water is brown.  I watched a guy walk right into a submerged rock – it looked like it really hurt. There is a lot of kiteboarding here.

Top-middle: A shaman ceremony a little upstream the Nakdong River from DaDaePo.

Top-right: There are  a lot of fountains to play in and DaDaePo has a great one that erupts at 2, 3 and 4 pm, for about half an hour each time.

Second row and third row: SongDo Beach.

Oops! Second row, right side is from near my home at ASIAD Park.  I think there might have been a fire just beyond the point.

Bottom row: The little guy at Songdo, a pebble beach at Molundae – next to DaDaePo, and a ninja at Haeundae Beach.

I said there were plenty of bikinis at Haeundae but foreigners can get in trouble photographing them.  This man, a Coast Guard lifeguard, seemed to be wearing the opposite of a bikini, with almost no flesh showing.


I have just received an email telling me that Samnak Park, in SaSang Gu and next to the NakDong River, has a great children’s pool and I will check it out soon.  I also want to see Songjeong Beach, which is a little East of Haeundae.  I have been to Gwangalli but not to swim.

If anyone is looking for a snorkelling partner, I think there are some good spots at Molundae.  If you want to join me some afternoon, contact me here.

pool safety

July 3, 2010

1) Before taking a shot, look behind you make sure your cue has …

Alright, this post is about swimming pools and water safety, not billiards or the like.

Today, Yahoo News was highlighting a Toronto politician who wanted all children in Toronto to receive swimming lessons so as to prevent drowning.  He felt this would be cheaper than paying for lifeguards to watch every pool in Toronto.  Soon after he made his suggestion, a boy was found floating in a pool with no vital signs. He was pronounced dead the following day.

On Friday afternoon, a boy was plucked from the pool at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel at Eglinton Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway. He was taken to hospital with no vital signs and died Saturday. Another child taken out of the pool was conscious and mobile.

Smitherman says it would be too expensive to make sure there is a lifeguard on duty at every pool including those in condos.

The swimming-lessons pitch is part of a plan Smitherman released Friday to transform Toronto’s schools into community hubs, offering a broad range of government services including daycare, recreation facilities and libraries.

I am unconvinced.  Kids, especially young boys, will find pools and get into trouble even if they are good swimmers.

I guess my feeling is that there is a price that can be placed on human life.  I don’t know what it is, but, for example, I would be willing to accept a few boating deaths of idiots if I didn’t have to carry all that ridiculous safety gear in my canoe on short trips.

Hmm, did that make sense?

I’ll try again.  I don’t want anyone to die and I am comfortable saying we should protect young people in particular.  Yet, they will always be people who kill themselves doing stupid things.  Creating new red tape and expenses to stop those deaths will cost too much per unit death.

All that said, I would like more lifeguards at swimming areas in Korea and more understanding of  water safety in Koreans who use pools and beaches.  Recess isn’t enough (from a Q&A at the Joongang Daily):

All outdoor swimming pools in Korea must abide by the regulation set by the Korea Swimming Pool Management Association that swimming is allowed for 40 to 45 minutes, with 15 to 20 minutes rest time in-between.

According to the manager at the outdoor swimming pool in Jamsil, the recess is for health and safety reasons. By emptying the pool, staff can clean up debris or pick up lost items or foliage. A brief rest also can help prevent hypothermia among young children, who tend to stay for a prolonged period of time at play, and also prevent accidental drowning.

The pool I take Alex too, doesn’t have recess, nor does it have any visible lifeguards. There are security cameras, if that helps.

I will try to find death-by-drowning rates for Korea and the list of causes.

“Move to Aussie”?

April 20, 2010

I have some friends at work from Australia.  I will have to ask them if they refer to their country as “Aussie”.  Certainly, they seem to refer to themselves as ‘Aussies’, but I hadn’t heard that term for the country. Added later: My Aussie coworkers do say their country is sometimes also called ‘Aussie’.  My mistake.

Well, until I read today’s Korea Times, which has an article about Olympic Gold Medalist Park Tae-hwan moving to “Aussie” to train for future events.  In that article you can read about the Beijing Olympic Gold medalist or “Park, the 400-meter freestyle golded boy in Beijing…”

There is s0me interesting information how intensive training is at his level. For me, as a struggling sort-of national level swimmer in Canada, there were only one or two competitions I would prepare to race in best condition for in a year.  Let me break that sentence down.  I competed at several small competitions, and, at those times, I focussed on technique and pacing and the like.  I swam as hard as I was able.  However, on the day before such a competition, I may have trained for six- or seven- thousand metres in the pool.  I was not rested, did not alter my diet, and skipped other preparation activities before race day.  It takes a long time to get to peak fitness, and you don’t actually race at peak fitness.  you reach peak fitness, then begin to rest.  The total metres per day drop and the content of those metres changes.  When I swam at Canadian University National Championships (CIAUs – I think one of those initials is for ‘union’, but can’t remember; no one ever used the full title), I had trained hard for four and a half months and rested for a month.  Around Christmas, I might have competed in a 10,000 metre race, but in February, I wouldn’t be swimming much more than that in a week.

In the week before the race, I followed a high-protein diet followed by a high-carbo diet.  The consensus was that it wouldn’t really help for the distances we would race, but it helped us focus.  The thoughts about the upcoming races followed me everywhere.  Even into my dreams.  On the Wednesday or Thursday before the competition I would have nightmares about the races.  Friday and through the competition, the nightmares would end and the dreams would be about swimming well and with laser-like focus.

On Friday or Saturday morning, I would shave -everywhere the bathing suit didn’t cover.  The suit itself was new, lycra, and six sizes too small.

Wow, I really went on about it, didn’t I?

Anyway, the point of all that is to help explain why Park will not compete in ‘real’ competitions for over a year before his next big one.

Park won three gold medals in the Doha Asian Games in 2006 and snatched one gold and one silver medal in Summer Games in 2008.

However, he collapsed in the Rome World Championships in 2009 in all events he swam in ― the 200- 400- and 1,500-meter freestyle.

However, while training in Australia he took part in the New South Wales State Open Championships and captured three gold medals in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter freestyle.

This time he will not compete in any events during training.

Broken glass on the pool deck

March 16, 2010

I stepped onto the deck of Sajik swimming pool and felt a sharp pain in my foot.  It faded quickly and walked, limping a little, to the pool and swam.  I limped back to the changeroom and had a look at my foot but couldn’t see anything.  Later, at work but before classes started and students arrived, I had another look.  I pulled out this little piece of broken glass – the lines on the paper are the standard distance apart for a notebook (click to bigify).

My foot hurt a lot but felt almost normal after I removed the glass. It is a little tender this evening.

Busan’s pools: Sajik

March 13, 2010

I am happy to be in a city with some good pools.  Well, I hope they are good pools.  Maybe one or two?

The 2002 Asiad Games pool complex is plenty big enough and includes two fifty metre pools that look like they could be fast.Well, fast if they were filled.  I think at full volume, this pool would be two metres deep.  It has been partially drained to 1.3 metres or so.  I was impressed that the water was clear; if it were designed to be two metres deep, the intake and return might be in the wrong places.  Most pools carry like 90% of their dirt on the surface.  Hair, flakes of skin, compounds released in sweat and more normally ends up in the surface layer.  Most pools have drains right at the surface to collect that water for filtering.  With the water level so low, I am not sure how it is filtered and kept clean.  Still, it smelled and looked clean and I enjoy 50 metre pools so I will return.  It is curious, though.