Andre Slade

Andre is the owner of OceanFit with over 20 years in the swimming education, lifeguarding and coastal safety industry.

Posts by Andre Slade

Developing A Water Safety Strategy For Saudi Arabia

For a week in September I travelled to Saudi Arabia on behalf of Surf Life Saving Australia to assist the Saudi Arabian Swimming Federation develop a water safety strategic plan across all aquatic environments.

It’s a ‘green fields’ opportunity for water safety with next to no current water safety systems in place. I hope that the strategic direction I’ve developed for them will help build a solid foundation for the organisation’s future and ultimately save many lives.

It was an amazing experience, the country was much different to what I had prepared myself for (thanks to western media and out-dated myths) and the people were amazing.

As a country they are becoming open-minded about change and I learnt as much about their culture and religion as I passed on in water safety knowledge.

There’s a lot of opportunity in Saudi Arabia, who knows, one day we might even teach OceanFit programs over there! Watch this space…

Here’s a small selection of photos from my trip:

A Comprehensive Guide To Surf Life Saving: Surf Sports

Surf Life Saving – Part #2: Surf Sports

Surf lifesavers have long been Australian icons, but lifesaving is now growing in popularity as an open water sport around the world. In Part 2 of A Comprehensive Guide To Surf Life Saving (See Part 1: Lifesaving) we take a look at surf sports through the ages, the rise of professional surf sports and the growth in ocean sports outside of surf life saving.

First published in H2Open Magazine

Surf Sports

Through the ages, Aussies have been known for their love of sport, and lifesaving events have long been held, as a way not only to satisfy the innate Aussie need to compete but as a means for lifesavers to stay fit enough to meet their lifesaving responsibilities.

Many events from the early days no longer feature in modern competition; up until the 70s it was possible to compete in chariot races, pillow fights, jumping through hoops and gymnastics, alongside more conventional surf swim and beach races.

A few traditional events have survived, though, including the march past (where lifesavers march in formation), rescue and resuscitation and belt races (races swum while attached to reel and line).

Over time, disciplines have become focused on swimming, craft and beach-based events, and the competition between surf clubs has intensified – in large part fuelled by professional ‘Surf Ironman’ events.

Ironman racing is the ultimate in surf sports; a three-leg event that includes a surf swim, board paddle and ski paddle, mixed with beach runs. Ironman is effectively the ‘triathlon of surf lifesaving’ and is not to be confused with the Ironman of the ‘swim-bike-run’ variety.

In the 1980s and 90s professional Ironman racing was one of Australia’s most popular summer sports. Its athletes were well-paid superstars, and the events were broadcast to huge TV audiences. But public interest in Ironman events has dimmed over the years, and attempts to revive the sport have largely failed to restore the lustre the sport enjoyed in its glory days.

Yet surf sports continue to be a strong core of the surf lifesaving movement, and tens of thousands of lifesavers compete in events at club, state and national level each summer. Again, this is to maintain fitness and provide sport and recreation opportunities that act as an effective means of attracting and retaining members.

The largest of the surf sports events is the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, affectionately know as the ‘Aussies’, which brings together surf lifesaving clubs and members from across the country, with over 8,000 athletes of all ages contesting around 300 events, in what is always an action-packed week of competition. The Aussies is a celebration of the lifesaving movement and an  opportunity for surf lifesavers from around Australia to display their talents.

Internationally, surf sports are also continuing to develop, so providing opportunities for countries to not only come together to compete, but also to share and strengthen lifesaving networks, friendships and knowledge.

The Lifesaving World Championships are held every two years and include competitors from 40 nations. The Championships are the largest international lifesaving sport competition in the world, with between 4,000-6,000 competitors taking part, from juniors through to masters.

Surf sports is also increasingly providing a pathway to Olympic success, with the sport’s top boat rowers, ski-paddlers and swimmers making the transition to rowing, kayaking and open water swimming.

In open water swimming circles, the best-known Olympian from a surf lifesaving background is professional Ironman Ky Hurst, winner of [tooltip id=”tooltip_29″ title=”As at 2012″]28 [/tooltip]Australian Surf Life Saving Titles, who contested the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in the Open Water Marathon.

Ocean Sports

The past few years have started to see a sharp growth in ocean sports not directly linked to traditional surf life saving. Sports that were once the sole domain of surf lifesavers – ocean swimming, board paddling and ocean paddling – have now been opened up to the public through new specialized events run by independent organisations or lifesaving clubs themselves.

New participants are flooding to these ocean sports in huge numbers, and can do so without the often cumbersome commitments required of being a lifesaver.

Ocean swimming alone now has around 200 events annually worldwide, and regular board paddling and ocean paddling events attract high-quality fields and top-level prize money.

There is every reason to believe that ocean sports will continue to grow and that more people will be attracted to this fantastic ocean lifestyle.

For surf lifesaving the hope is that many of these new participants will enjoy the ocean so much that they also choose to become lifesavers and continue the iconic lifesaving service to the Australian public.

How Can You Get Involved?

Internationally there are limited opportunities outside of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK to become a volunteer lifesaver. The culture of volunteering alone doesn’t exist in every country, and it is even scarcer when it comes to providing a volunteer lifesaving service, due to legal liability concerns.

If you’re in a country that provides volunteer lifesavers, or you’re about to move to a country that does, all you need to do to get involved is head on down to your nearest surf club and ask a member.

If there’s no volunteer service in your country there are still opportunities to be employed as a lifeguard at pools, lagoons and beaches.

For more information on lifesaving internationally visit:

New Zealand:

Do Fluro Vests Spell The End Of Bare Chested Ocean Swimming?

PHOTO: Andre Slade, swimming in a fluro vest and swim cap during the swim leg of the 2011 Coolangatta Gold. In this case and in these conditions a vest is definitely required (on top of my board paddler in support), however, in calm open water swims I believe only a fluro cap would suffice as part of a comprehensive water safety plan.

A recent water safety policy decision by Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ), that goes above and beyond current national water safety guidelines, will start to impact on every open water sport in Australia from this summer – including ocean swim events.

SLSQ’s new High Visibility Clothing Policy requires every competitor in ‘a surf lifesaving ocean or open water-based event endorsed by SLSQ’ to wear a ‘high visibility lycra/rash top/singlet/stinger suit/buoyancy vest’ from 22 September 2012.

Whilst the new hi-vis policy has only been adopted by SLSQ at this time, Lifesaving Victoria is said to be adopting a similar policy and other states will not be far behind.

For ocean swimmers this policy will effectively mean the end to participating in an ocean swim event ‘bare-chested’ or just in cozzies, because the majority of ocean swim events are run by surf clubs operating under SLS water safety guidelines and policies.

Ocean swim entry fees are also likely to rise, unless organisers soak up the addition cost, with fluro vests currently retailing up to $40.

Event organisers choosing to utilise the vests for sponsor purposes will likely make the wearing of their own vests compulsory, however, a generic fluro vest policy for all ocean swim events would be the best option to allow a one-time purchase to stretch across all events entered.

Independent ocean swim event organisers are not obliged to adopt a similar policy, but should maintain a comprehensive risk management process for their own events. Current national guidelines recommend a standardised rash shirt or swimming cap.

There is no evidence to prove a blanket policy requiring the wearing of fluro vests in every event and training session will make ocean swimming any safer and there seems to have been no research into the impact of the decision on the wider aquatic sports industry.

So, whether you think fluro vests will make the sport safer or not, or whether you think they’re going to impact on the freedom of ocean swimming, it looks as if the wearing of fluro vests in ocean swimming events is here to stay.

In a situation where you could argue either way for the wearing/non-wearing of fluro vests it’s the ‘safest’ option which prevails.

What do you think?

  • Do you mind having to wear a fluro vest in ocean swim events?
  • Do you think the wearing of a vest will achieve higher water safety than the current swim cap?
  • Will wearing a vest while ocean swimming remove all that is great about ocean swimming?

The Difference Between Ocean Swimming And Open Water Swimming

Open water swimming is ‘wild’ swimming that takes place in open bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and the ocean.

Open water swimming is a chance to ditch the black line and confines of a swimming pool and swim free as nature intended.

Open Water Swimming vs. Ocean Swimming

A swimmer swimming in a river.

Technically ‘open water swimming’ is the over-arching name given to swimming in open bodies of water that includes the ocean.

In Australia and New Zealand, owing to the vast coastlines and beach culture, ‘ocean swimming‘ has become the most common form of open water swimming and has therefore become the default type of open water swim event.

It is uncommon to hear of ‘open water swimming’ in Aus/NZ unless it’s in relation to the sport of open water swimming (i.e. 5km & 10km swims, usually run by traditional pool swimming organisations) or the swim leg of a triathlon.

Different Skill Sets

Swimming in open water requires a specific set of skills and knowledge not required in the pool.

OceanFit runs an Open Water Swimming clinic that teaches knowledge and skills specific to open water swimming.

Here’s a summary of the types of things you need to be aware of when swimming in lakes, rivers and the ocean:

Open Water (General)

  • Deeper water
  • Moving water
  • Cooler water
  • Away from land
  • Other users (particularly craft)
  • Water quality
  • Steep drop off
  • Wind chop
  • Curving shoreline
  • Tidal
  • Strong currents
  • Inability to swim upstream (one way swimming)
  • Hidden submerged objects
  • Natural features (rocks/waterfalls/rapids etc)
  • Lack of total control of movement
  • Rip currents and other currents
  • Tides
  • Waves
  • Marine life
  • Beach/craft users

Swimming in open water can be one of the most liberating feelings you will ever have and can improve your health and wellbeing, appreciation of nature and social friendships.

Get into ocean and open water swimming today, join an OceanFit program to get you started.

How The Olympics Can Help Your Swimming

Emily Seebohm has won a Gold and Silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Olympics are in full swing and there’s already been huge upsets and victories out of the pool.

Swimmers at the Olympics are the best of the best, they’ve spent countless hours for most of their lives training and preparing for a shot at Olympic glory.

For the average couch supporter and recreational swimmer it’s easy to watch in awe of the feats of these giants of the sport, but there are lessons everyone can take away from these Olympics that can help you with your swimming.

Here’s my top 3 lessons you can take away from watching the Olympic swimming:

1. Get motivated!

If you can’t get motivated to swim after watching the best swimmers in the world then you’ve got no chance.

Action step: If you’re not already swimming regularly in the pool in preparation for the summer ocean swimming season then start today! Grab a friend and head to the local pool, start slowly and build up your volume and intensity each week.

2. Different strokes

If you watch the swimming closely you’ll notice that each swimmer has their own swimming style. There’s swinging arms, high elbows, wide arms; there’s big kickers and soft kickers; and there’s short and long gliders just to name a few of the variations. No single technique is ‘the best’ but you can guarantee that the technique each swimmer uses is the most efficient for them.

Action step: Get your stroke technique sorted so you are swimming as efficiently as possible. Have your technique assessed by a qualified swim coach and work on it regularly through drills. You’ll not only swim faster, but you’ll use less energy doing so.

3. Hard work gets results

None of the Olympic champions win gold by cruising through their training. They set goals and work extremely hard to achieve the success they do.

Action step: You don’t need to be an Olympian to achieve success. Set your own goals and work hard through commitment to training, positive thinking and dedication to achieving your goals. There’s no better feeling than getting to the finish line of something you’ve worked so hard for.


Becoming world masters champion deserves a holiday

After the Australian Surf Life Saving Titles in March on the Gold Coast, I spent 10 weeks preparing for the FINA World Masters Championships and participated in a number of pool events, along with the 3 kilometre Open Water Swim.

Over 2300 masters athletes started in the Open Water Swimming event held in the crystal clear calm waters of the Adriatic Sea at Riccione, a seaside resort in north eastern Italy.

With the water temperature being around 22 degrees Celsius, conditions were perfect.

The event was held over two days with over 1,000 starters competing wave by wave from the 40- 44 down to the 25- 29 age groups on the first day and the older age groups being held on the second day.

The event was very well organised with efficient registration procedures, marker buoys easy to identify, lots of water safety and medical services.

With no injuries or illnesses leading into the event, I was able to put together a good block of training in the lead up to the event.

This, along with my experience in Surf Life Saving and ocean swim events enabled me to have success, winning the 45- 49 years age group in a very tight finish – 3 tenths of a second was very close, especially over that distance!!!.

After the championships I was very fortunate to travel with a small group of other swimmers to a place on the western side of Italy called Cinque Terre.

It is easy to get there by train, a great way to get around Italy.  Here there are five ancient fishing villages set in some of the most beautiful coastal scenery.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the clear and warm waters made swimming conditions perfect for when we visited there in June, arguably the best time to visit before the busy tourist season starts in July.

These five places date back to the medieval period with Monterosso being the oldest one.  It was found in AD643.  The other towns are Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  Many people visit here to hike over the scenic, steep terraced cliffs.  The trails have been around for over five centuries.

We decided to have a unique adventure and had a leisurely swim between each of the villages, taking in the amazing sites and having an opportunity to get close to the marine life.

One of our group members caught the train and met us at the next town.  She carried all of our bare essentials- towel, sunscreen, shirt, a small amount of cash, fluids and some fruit.

We took our time and did a swim from Monterossa to Vernazza, a relaxing one hour break and quick look around the town, followed by swimming from Vernazza to Corniglia on the first day (approximately 3 kilometres on each leg).

On the next day we did an easy swim from Corniglia to Manarola with a short break and then to complete the journey, we swam to Riomaggiore (approximately 2 kilometres on each leg).

Our accommodation was based in Monterossa and we caught the ferry back to there on the first day and the train on the second day (both are short journeys).

This was a perfect way for a group of swimmers to check out the local area and made the holiday very memorable.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to Italy, especially if you are an Open Water enthusiast, I would highly recommend that you visit this beautiful part of the world.