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Swimming in Hawai'i:

Come Swim in Hawai'i
Hawai'i Swimming Safety Information

Kona, Hawaii girl on reefHawaii swim iconSwimming in Hawai'i is probably one of the very best components of a vacation, or living here. The sea water around the Islands of Hawai'i is simply deliciously desirable for swimming. Neither too cold, nor too warm. It is often right around 80 degrees - unless you are swimming next to an area with fresh water entering the sea either by a stream, river, or by natural percolation.

More often than not, the visibility in the water is very good as well, and you can clearly see the sea bottom even without a dive mask or goggles. The natural tidal action surrounding the Hawaiian Islands provides a daily cleaning mechanism, ensuring that every day will be clear and the temperature somewhat evenly distributed. Like anywhere on the ocean, you may find a "thermocline" in the sea water surrounding Hawai'i. A thermocline, is a stratification of the sea water by temperature, where the warmer water tends to be at the surface and the cooler water increases the deeper you dive.

Fresh water creates a scenario where the "salty" water (having increased density) slips below the fresh water. Sometimes, when you are swimming in areas with natural fresh water percolation, you will see the demarkation of the start of the salty water appear as a thin visible line in the sea water. You may come back the next day and not find this phenomena again, with the tidal action affecting the visible conditions at present.

Safety Considerations When Swimming in Hawai'i

Hawaii swimmer in Open Water Swimming Information and SafetyAs fun and enjoyable as swimming is for all ages in Hawai'i, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you swim and/or when you are near the shoreline. This list is not necessarily in order of importance, in that circumstances may be slightly different from location to location within the Islands of Hawai'i.

Tidal Action, Tidal Surges, Currents, and Waves
Keep in mind the ocean is never standing still, it is always moving, and your swimming enjoyment can be affected by changing conditions. The tides in Hawai'i tend to raise and lower less than many other places world wide, but this does not mean the current is slower. In many places, it can move very quickly, and this can move you as a swimmer in a variety of not necessarily helpful ways. Be mindful of the current before you enter the water in Hawai'i.

Heach Break WavesWaves also represent a dynamic element in the swimming conditions on Hawai'i. Many areas have super calm sea periods (usually in the mornings), although even these times can be interrupted by sets of larger waves passing through. As a swimmer, these waves may have negligible effects while swimming, but they can be an issue as you are entering and leaving the water.

Sometimes you can not miss interacting with the waves. From the beaches, you may have noticed the swimmers diving "under" the waves as they pass by overhead. What is really happening here, is the swimmer is basically moving away form the energy that is propelling the wave height and motion. Like standing aside when a person wants to move by you. If you stand in fro of someone, you can expect some contact, and a wave interaction is no different. There are several other techniques for handling wave energy, but we will discuss them in the Boogie-Boarding and Surfing Sections of this website.

Lastly, keep in mind that tidal surge is an element in every ocean environment. This is the "back and forth" element natural in any tidal area. Although this action can be very enjoyable to your Hawai'i swimming pleasure generally, it may be an issue as you approach the beach, and the other obstacles in the water. For instance, being raked across a shallow reef after a pleasant swim is no way to end the day. So approach these areas with caution allowing room for swimming navigation out of harms way if required.

Never turn your back on the Ocean
Rogue waves can happen anywhere, even in Hawai'i, even on calm days. Always be prepared when you are near the ocean, and the best way to do that is to keep one eye on the ocean when you are in proximity to the water. Also, never allow small children to play unsupervised near the ocean. They can be swept away with much smaller waves, and it only takes a moment.

Life Guard, HawaiiLife Guards and Life Facts
Many Hawai'i State Parks and finer resorts make the additional investment in Life Guards and Safety Security for the Beach. While we salute the effort, and the people attempting this fine service, we want to caution you about your expectations from these services. Life Guards have their hands full 100% of the day, even with small crowds around them. Most Life Guards are keeping an extra eye on children, and young people at the beach. They respond to loud voices, and things that look out of order, but they can't be everywhere at once. If you swim out of the designated swim area, expect that you do this without their supervision, and you are assuming responsibility for your own safety.

Here Comes The Hawaiian Sun
One of the biggest risks you take when swimming in the Hawaiian Islands, is your exposure to the the Tropical Sun, and a Sun burn. We can tell you in advance, you can burned here even when you are swimming - so don't take a chance, wear some protection. Consider:
• Wearing a Waterproof Factor 15 or greater Sunblock. Re-apply every few hours because the "waterproof" element only lasts so long.
• Try wearing a T-shirt when you swim (protects the back and front of your body)
• Avoid being in the direct sun between 11AM and 2PM.
• Always try to shower off the salt residue from your skin after swimming. Helps avoid dryness and chapping.

Hawaiian Shark Swimming ByHawaiian Sea Life that Bites, Scratches, Pokes, or Stings
The ocean is full of wonders and beautiful creatures. Hawai'i has its share of these sea marvels. Probably the most attention is credited to the Shark, and yes Hawai'i (and virtually every warm ocean area) has them also. The good news is that Hawai'i has very few shark bites, and shark attacks to report. There is no shortage of food around these Islands for them to eat, and so they tend to disregard humans. That said; avoid swimming in areas where rivers or streams enter the ocean, and areas with murky water. We talk more about Sharks in the Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Sections of this website.

Sharp coral is another living sea element that should be regarded with great care. Coral grows very slowly, and is not designed to do well when it comes in contact with humans standing on it, or rubbing next to it. Certain coral types have very sharp edges, and this can break and scratch the skin and cause bleeding. Should you begin to bleed in the ocean, it is advisable to exit the water and care for the wound. Only re-enter the water when all bleeding has stopped.

Hawaii Sea Urchin Another player to be on the lookout for is the Hawaiian Sea Urchin. This spiny critter likes shallow depths to 100 feet and can make a mess of your foot if you step on them without foot protection. When walking on beaches and in tidal areas always wear reef shoes or some form of protection for the feet. Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than a sore or throbbing foot!

Lastly, when swimming or preparing to swim, be on the lookout for Jellyfish and in particular the Portuguese Man-of-War. The tentacles of these sea creatures can leave a sting, and although they are rare, they do sting badly a may necessitate some medical treatment to stabilize. Jellyfish tend not to be present unless the winds are blowing onshore and thereby blowing the shoreward. Below, please find more detailed information about Hawai'i swimming related prospective hazards with links:

-- Hawai'i Critters to Watch For when Swimming--
Anemone
Barracuda
Cone Snail or Shell
Coral
Jellyfish
Moray Eel
Needle Fish
Octopus
Portuguese
Man-of-War
Scorpion Fish
Sea Snake
Sea Urchin
Shark
Squid
Stinging Limu
(Seaweed)

Stingray
Surgeonfish
Tube Worm


Floatation
Although floatation devices do somewhat add more drag to the swimming process, they can be very helpful when swimming in the ocean around Hawai'i. There are a variety of new swimming floatation devices that inflate only when needed, and these can be very helpful if a swimmer desires an assisted "rest" mid-swim. Floatation can also provide a method to pursue longer swim periods, and access to further locations by swimming.

Hawaii Swimmer with her friendsBring a Buddy - Hawaiian Style
Without question, Hawai'i is better enjoyed in pairs, or even with larger groups. Why not apply this to your swimming? It's fun. It's safer. And it always provides stimulating new conversation material after the swim. Besides, its is great for relationships!

Hydration - Drink Water
When you swim in Hawai'i, you will perspire. When you perspire, you are losing hydration in your body. Plus, Hawai'i has delightfully warm weather, so always drink refreshing fresh water when you are done with your swim. A tell tale sign of dehydration is a headache, or a pinched feeling in the temple or sinus area in the head. Drink some water, rest up a bit in the shade - and you are good to go again! How about some more swimming?

Know when you are tired
The desire to keep on swimming in Hawai'i is strong. Take a moment before you leave the beach, and ask yourself if you are tired? The water will be there when you rest up, and swimming with the knowledge you are "ready to go" is the final component you require to make your swim in Hawai'i a wonderful and memorable success. Swim Free. Swim Long. Swim Hawai'i!



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