Whether swimming at a top tourist beach, remote river, or sprawling lake, when you’re swimming in natural water you’re swimming in the wild. Sure, you may not be Chris McCandless level ‘into the wild’, but wild, open water demands respect; both for your own safety and the safety of others.

The story of ‘The Pier’

In July 2018, Swim Drink Fish and other instrumental stakeholders unveiled the revitalization of Breakwater Park in Kingston, Ontario. A long time passion project and embodiment of the Swim Drink Fish movement, this revitalization was hallmarked by the creation of the Gord Edgar Downie Swimming Pier. The first urban swimming pier of its kind in Canada, the Gord Edgar Downie Pier has attracted praise for not only its architecture and design, but also the role it has played in helping Canadians connect with their local waterbody.

Adorning the shores of Lake Ontario, the City of Kingston boasts a population of 136,00 people, many of which are students at the renowned Queens University. ‘The Pier’, as it is known to locals, is only minutes from both campus and downtown Kingston. But ‘The Pier’s’ proximity to an urban center does not change the fact that Lake Ontario is a big, wild lake.

A Rise in Open Urban Waters

That proximity to urban centers rings true for many of the most popular destinations in Swim Guide. Whether it’s the French Broad River in North Carolina, the golden coast of California, or the manmade Albert Dyck Lake in British Columbia, urbanization doesn’t just mean more people in our cities- it means more people recreating in the water accessible from city centres.

Often times urban centers even birth new swimming destinations altogether, such as the case of Accidental Beach in Edmonton, Canada. During the summer months, cities are hot and they are only getting hotter. Urbanites deserve to have accessible places to swim and projects like the Gord Edgar Downie Pier serve as an example of how communities can offer an accessible place for their citizens to seek respite and recreate in their local waters.

The 6 Steps of Open Water Safety

As city-dwellers start to reconnect to their local, wild waters, however, they must remember that these waters are indeed wild. Swimming in a Great Lake, or the Pacific Ocean, is not the same thing as your community pool. In order to ensure your safety and the safety of others, follow these six rules to water safety when swimming in the open water.

1. Check Swim Guide to get the latest water quality information.

2. Scan your surroundings: Take note of conditions like wind, waves, birds, and sun. All of these can affect water quality and safety

3. Make a plan: Know your access points, if any safety devices are present, and where your boundaries are.

4. Never swim alone: This one is simple. When swimming in open water, always swim with a friend. And if you or your friends are drinking, stick to the sand.

5. Make the experience better for everyone: Share the space respectively with others, pack up your garbage, or even better- don’t bring any garbage in the first place!

6. Share your experience to encourage others: Swimming in open water is just relaxing- it’s good for you. Share your experience with friends and family, and encourage others in your community to enjoy the space safety.

7. Bonus: Share this video! By watching and sharing this video you are contributing to make your local waters a safe and enjoyable space for everyone.

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