The effects of the pandemic on outdoor recreation are still being felt. The resulting explosion in participation has meant we see a lot more traffic at our local recreation access points as well as on the water. At the same time this participation growth was occurring we were simultaneously blessed with a dynamic new sport, Wingfoiling, that only accelerated that growth.
It’s with that backdrop we want to reach out to our entire community regarding a group of users that has just about paralleled us with respect to user growth. Open Water Swimmers. In fact, many of you are probably members of both communities, as are some of the SFBA Board Members. Not only has the Open Water Swimming community grown rapidly it has also seen many of its members starting to enjoy the later afternoon, windy & choppy swim sessions. The deduction will tell that lots more people sharing the water at the same time means we need to work together to keep everyone safe.
Sadly the genesis of this message comes from a scary, and disturbing accident that has already happened. Given the situation, we are not going to go into details here on that specific incident with the exception of hoping for a speedy and full recovery of the Swimmer that was struck by a Wingfoiler in Berkley recently. With that said the situation called to light the need to be proactive to make sure things are safe on the water for everybody.
The SFBA has already reached out to some organized members of the Open Water Swim Community. We realize that is just a subset of users, but it’s a start. Our goal is to create a dialogue that results in an ongoing culture of safety as we share together the Bay we all love so much. We’ve created ongoing monthly open calls for community interchange. We call them the SFBA Outreach Meetings and invite anyone to attend.
We made some progress on our last call and really appreciate the participation of all.
Some ideas discussed were
- Developing Maps to share with Swimmers informing them of high-traffic areas
- Developing Swimming area maps to share with wingers as above
- Note maps are generalities and awareness needs to be that people can be anywhere at any time.
- Schedule awareness of swim events
- Sunday Mornings & Tuesday Evenings are big swimming afternoons in Berkeley
- Tide impacts - Note the Berkeley swimmers can be forced to the Wind Sailing areas at low tides so we can expect more swimmers on a low tide.
- Signaling Buoys and markers for events activities are already in use so we should socialize them for awareness
Swimmer awareness for Wingfoiling Blind Spot
- Gear safety - Bright caps and floats
- Better Signage at shared locations
- Bidirectional Informational Campaigns (newsletters, social media, site stewards)
- Improve Signage at key locations
- Scheduling awareness resources - Calendars
- Ongoing Communication between the two communities
- Targeted Awareness Messaging to the Wind community (not long-winded blog post)
- Reach out to other swim groups (Water World)
- Find centralized communication points for Swimmers
- Have Sailors notify each other when swimmers are sighted.