cute child in inflatable ring in swimming pool
Everyone should have basic swimming lessons under their belt, including kids. Credit: Jozildo José

There are plenty of ways for New Yorkers to cool off in the summer. From beaches like Rockaway and Coney Island to around 90 public pools, we have no shortage of places to swim. But swimming requires following water safety guidelines. With some recent drownings happening around the city, we want to make sure you and your family are enjoying the summer safely. 

Know the rules

Lifeguards are only on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at public beaches. As much as it’s tempting to run back in the water after they leave, even the strongest swimmers can get caught in rip currents, so it is important to only swim when lifeguards are on duty. The chances of drowning at a beach with lifeguards are 1 in 18 million, so playing it safe is your best bet.

Public pools are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a break between 3 to 4 p.m. Some city officials are calling for lifeguard hours to be extended until dusk and to extend the season into September, but with the already existing lifeguard shortages, there’s no telling when or if this will happen. 

Learn to swim

Everyone should have basic swimming lessons under their belt, especially if they’re going to be spending the summer in the water. 

The American Red Cross says that everyone should learn these five skills to be able to navigate most kinds of water environments (i.e pools, oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams):

  1. Enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface.
  2. Float or tread water for at least 1 minute.
  3. Turn over and turn around in the water.
  4. Swim at least 25 yards.
  5. Exit the water

The New York City Parks Department offers three Learn to Swim sessions over the summer, with an advanced session in late August. Registration is lottery based and there is still time to register for sessions 2 and 3. Register here.

The YMCA also offers group and individual swim lessons at their branches across the city. Learn more.

There are also plenty of private facilities and other community centers offering swimming lessons in all five boroughs as well as chain locations like Goldfish Swim School.

Online resources

The Red Cross also offers a great Water Safety for Kids guide with age-appropriate videos that teach important water safety topics. They also offer a free online course for parents and caregivers that focuses on developing an awareness of the risks of drowning and how to minimize those risks.

Rip current safety

Many beach drownings are caused by rip currents encountered by persons lacking the proper knowledge to navigate them. This video by the National Weather Service explains what a rip current is, how to spot one, and how to safely make it back to shore.

The website suggests the following ways to play it safe during your next trip to the beach:

  • Check water conditions before going in by looking at the local beach forecast and talking to the lifeguard at the beach.
  • Only swim at a beach with lifeguards.
  • Don’t assume! Great weather for the beach does not always mean it’s safe to swim or even play in the shallows.

10 open water tips + 5 layers of protection

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance has a great list of 10 open water tips plus the five layers of protection in the event of an emergency.

10 Open Water Safety Tips

  1. Swim in a designated swimming area
  2. When in doubt, get out
  3. Know the weather and water conditions
  4. Never swim alone
  5. Choose the right equipment
  6. Understand currents
  7. No alcohol
  8. Wear a USCG-approved life vest
  9. Have a plan for emergencies
  10. Swim parallel to the shore

Read more about each tip here.

The 5 Layers Of Protection from drowning

  1. Barriers and alarms
  2. Supervision
  3. Water competency
  4. Life jackets
  5. Emergency preparation

Read more about each barrier here.

Click here to check out more of our things to do in NYC and ways to stay safe stories.

Nicole Perrino is the founder of, a hyperlocal website for Bronx families where she use her influence to celebrate the beauty that the Bronx has to offer. In addition to her role at Bronxmama,...

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