Creating and Improving Water Confidence
Updated: May 10, 2020
Be sure to scroll to the end of the article for a list of swim lessons and resources across the state of Florida.
Let’s go ahead and dive right into this, 71% of the earths surface is covered by water. We know more about space than we do this deep blue void that floats boats, supports aquatic life and keeps us alive. From oceans to lakes, rivers to creeks, at some point in your life, you will come across it. While it serves as therapeutic release for some it terrifies others and rightfully so.
Would it surprise you that drowning is the number one leading cause of death in children aged 1-4. There are 10 people that drown every day in the United States. The American Red Cross released a survey that found that while 80 percent of adults claim they could swim, 44 percent of them also admit they would fail a basic test. The 5 skills are: floating or treading for 1 minute, jumping into deep water and coming up for air, spinning around in the water and then finding a way out, getting out of a pool without a ladder and swimming one pool length without stopping.
All adults and children who live or plan to be visiting the water should have a basic understanding of what the water is capable of doing. If you are an unhealthy, obese adult who is not capable of being able to save him or herself after falling in the water, you should not even think about taking on the responsibility of having to possibly save someone else in a waterborne environment. I was an avid surfer in Destin FL (known for very strong rip currents during certain times of the year) and every year a tourist would die of heart attack either before or during a fatal struggle to get back to shore. A struggle in the water can lead to a heart rate of beyond 180 bpm. To an unhealthy adult or even a “trained athlete” this will cause exhaustion and the inability to stay afloat or swim which can lead to heart attack or drowning.
Being a subject matter expert in the water through my military and free diving background, I knew that the water could be a volatile and dangerous environment which constituted the upmost respect and preparation. When our son was two years old, we enrolled him into a 2 week swim/survival "crash" course. This specific class was an hour long, Monday thru Thursday for 2 weeks. This not only exposed him to the aquatic environment, but taught him things like how to float on his back and swim to the edge of the pool. We followed this by an extensive 6 week course on water survival, and cementing the things learned in the 2 week class like floating, swimming to the edge of the pool and subsurface diving. While these classes were intense to say the very least, they yielded excellent results and gave our child the basic skills he needed and the peace of mind we needed to feel comfortable being around water all the time.
Can this knowledge be lost or forgotten? Absolutely, the old concept of if “you don’t use it, you lose it” holds true in this situation. Whenever we get a chance to get Grayton in the water we do so. The best example I can give is when we catch a fish on the flats in the Florida Keys, we make Grayton get in the water with the fish. The situation is uncomfortable enough to make him want to panic but shallow enough for him to stand with the water coming up to his chest. It’s completely safe to do when you supervise and promotes safe fish handling while keeping the fish in the water, so you knock out two birds with one stone.
We implemented a crawl, walk, run teaching style for Grayton whenever we first started taking him on the boat. Trips to the sandbar always help when the water is clear. We would try and provoke Grayton to jump off the boat with his life jacket to one of us in the water. That turned into jumping and swimming in the water with his life jacket and then finally over time jumping off the boat with no life jacket and swimming. Consistency is key here, the more you or your kids are in the water, no matter the age, the more your body and mind adapts to the foreign environment. To ensure that our son stays afloat we obviously keep his life jacket on him while underway or when we are in fast moving current or turbid water. If we are in shallow water poling our skiff or the water clarity is clear in shallow depths we don’t make him wear a life jacket. With that being said we always abide and obey the laws set on and off the water.
Always remember that water environments can literally change in minutes. If you’re not prepared physically or mentally it could end badly for you and your family. I like to use the saying “biting off more than you can chew”. If you see that the sea state is getting too big for your boat or water is starting to crash over the bow, it’s probably time to turn around if possible. If the river you’re crossing is starting to take your feet from underneath you it’s probably time to turn around. If you’re the guy in the boat during a free diving trip and you’re having trouble keeping eyes on your buddies in the water, it’s probably time to pick every one up. All of these scenarios have happened to me over the past 20 plus years of me being around the water. The goal is to understand your limitations and implement controls to manage those limitations.
Remaining calm is the answer to finding yourself in any life threatening situation especially in the water. Remember you want to keep that active heart rate down as low as we can especially in situations where we find ourselves holding our breath. Thrashing and screaming consistently is not going to save you. Floating by any means and keeping your nose and mouth out of the water is what’s going to save you in certain situations.
I hope you guys got something out of this quick article and want to emphasize how important it is to gain competence in and around the water. It could save your life or someone else’s.
If you would like to see a quick video on “water confidence” visit our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/hookedonfamily
List of Swim Lessons by Location
**Swim Lesson We used for Grayton (and HIGHLY Recommend)
West Palm Beach
If you are not local to the state of Florida or any of the locations listed, check your local YMCA or go to infantswim.com where you can search for ISR Certified Swim Instructors based on your zipcode!
And as always, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram with any questions.
Stay Hooked Fam