15 May 2011

It's summer again, teach your kids to swim

Yesterday, a 17-year-old boy died in the surf here. He drowned when the waves kicked up as a squall line rolled in. He floundered for a half an hour before he succumbed. What a waste and how horrible a way to go out. Had the people who brought him into the world taken their jobs seriously, he wouldn't be dead.

The papers and the police are blaming the weather but that's not what's responsible for this young man's death. According to his friends at the scene, he couldn't swim. That he couldn't swim was his parent's fault. Had that young man been able to keep himself buoyant or been able to just tread water in a rip tide he's be alive right now.

Teaching a child to swim is on par with teaching a kid to read or to do basic math. It's part of being a conscientious parent. Really.

I learned how to swim off the end of a dock and I get it that that's an opportunity a lot of people don't have. However, there are YMCAs everywhere with means-adjusted swimming programs.

At some point, you will be confronted with a body of water and not knowing how to deal with it is a death sentence.

I look to the Gulf of Mexico as a place of renewal and relaxation. I get it that it's capable of great harm but the squall line yesterday was no big deal in the great scheme of things. Please. Teach your kids to swim.


  1. Paul, I keep coming back to being able to circumnavigate the world by clock and fist. No matter how much technology we surround ourselves with, eventually life or death, success or failure comes down to the basics. Sad story.


  2. It's all so unnecessary Rufus. The key to learning how to swim, and the key to learning how to live, is to stop fighting and not panic. Human beings are naturally buoyant so let yourself be buoyant.

  3. My mother got us swimming lessons as soon as we graduated from spray parks to ponds.

    I have been pressuring a friend to send her kid to Y camp - if all she gets out of it is learning how to swim, it will be well worth it.

  4. Thank God I know how to swim. I agree that everyone should know how to swim.

  5. I couldn't agree more. I have a four year old son and I categorize learning to swim as a "non-negotiable life skill" like reading and writing. He doesn't have to be an Olympic competitor but we're going to continue to do swim lessons and in a few years, swim team, until I'm convince he's a strong swimmer.

  6. Parents always had a lake front cottage and as an adult I have always had an inground swimming pool; yet with no stretch of the imagination am I a swimmer. Just not fond of it at all, however my children were introduced to swimming before they cud walk and thankfully the tradition has been carried over to my grandchildren. So sad to hear that this young man lost his life. -Brenda-

  7. Gab: It's IS a non-negotiable life skill. Kudos.

    Sprout: Encourage that friend!

    Brenda: I would never pass for an Olympic swimmer but I could not imagine not knowing how to handle myself on most of this planet's surface. Drowning deaths are a loss but drowning deaths that result from an inability to swim are an inexcusable shame.

  8. From an Aussie -- exactly right, Paul! And if you can't swim, keep away from the water. A sizeable proportion of our adult drowning deaths come down to non-swimmers falling into water, either while walking near rivers or boating.

  9. I almost drowned in a pool when I was 3 years old, so I have the same attitude about teaching kids to swim as you do. My kids were about 2 when they first took lessons, and while they're not competitive swimmers (like I was in high school), they can keep afloat just fine.


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