We are aware of a number of different ocean swimming groups who train between Cottesloe and Grant Street.
This stretch of water is also used by at least two surf clubs for ski paddling, surf boat and board training.
Over the past several years the number of swimmers and paddlers, in particular, has grown. While more people being physically active is terrific, unfortunately it has also lead to some clashes as swimmers and paddlers have become congested and perhaps not always recognised – or understood – the training needs of the other group.
It is also important for paddlers to be aware that Council by-laws (for the whole coast, not just Cottesloe waters) provide that all paddlers should be 200 metres off the beach, except when entering and exiting the water. Paddlers who are supporting swimmers training for Rottnest, strictly speaking should therefore also be 200m off the coast. However, it has been raised with the Cottesloe Ranger that this rather defeats the purpose of the paddler-swimmer support training which is all about ensuring the safety of swimmers undertaking the Rottnest race. The Cottesloe Ranger has advised that the Council supports swimmer safety.
To prevent problems arising, to assist local Councils in managing coastal bylaws and most importantly to ensure everyone can train safely and to their own level of fitness, the RCSA suggests the following rules of ‘etiquette’ for both swimmers and paddlers:
1. Surf paddlers stay well clear of swimmers as outlined in Council regulations.
2. To assist in the varying movement of paddlers and swimmers between the Cottesloe groyne and Grant Street, neither group should be more than 2 or 3 people wide. The logistics no longer allow for groups of swimmers 3 people and more abreast and the same with paddlers; there simply isn’t room and head on collisions are the result.
3. Paddlers, please remember that generally swimmers can’t see you and in rougher water will have difficulty in maintaining a straight line.
4. Swimmers, please periodically swim polo, practising your ‘sighting’ which is essential for navigating in open water races and also allows you to see oncoming swimmers and paddlers.
5. Swimmers, please wear bright caps when possible, as this allows other swimmers and paddlers to see you.
6. Paddlers, please be aware that particularly at the beginning of summer, many swimmers are neither experienced nor confident in open water and accordingly they can panic when paddlers come by at speed and/ or what they perceive to be, very close.
7. Swimmers, when paddlers approach please hold your line and swim as straight as possible (this also helps in races) so that paddlers can move past you at a safe distance.
8. Paddlers training with swimmers, please stay as close as possible to your swimmer but in crowded waters (ie big groups of swimmers), please move off shore after first advising your swimmer that you need to go out deeper. This sort of manoeuvre is also required at the beginning and end of the Rottnest and other paddler-supported races so it is important that it is practised. Every year there are problems (ie paddlers running over swimmers arms and legs and cutting off swimmers) at the start and end of races as paddlers cross other swimmers, thereby not only inconveniencing swimmers but actually threatening their safety.
9. Paddlers please note, whether in a race or training, swimmers have right of way.
Really all the above points are about swimmers and paddlers extending courtesy and common sense to each other. For swimmers it is great to have paddlers around (whether or not they are training to specifically support a swimmer for the Rottnest race) as it assists in your safety; most of those training are surf life savers and will be able to help you – and have done so in the past – if you or others have difficulties.
While paddlers might have become used to less crowded waters in the ‘non swimming months’, between March and November, the reason for Council regulations becomes evident and as surf lifesaving training makes clear, the safety of swimmers and other users of the ocean is paramount.