When I was 18 I took a ‘gap year’. I didn’t know enough about the world to be able to choose what I wanted to study or ‘be’ and so I opted for a year of personal exploration. I fell into a job as a swimming instructor for a local holiday park. My goal was to earn enough money to take me to Australia – the land of dreams!
The job was perfect. I was able to do what I love most whilst teaching children and adults a skill that they would cherish for the rest of their lives. Everyone has a different motivation to swim – some want to be able to survive if they fall into water, some want to explore another world and some want to learn so they can enjoy the activity with their children and grandchildren. I loved every reason and every person I taught. My ethos for teaching swimming was…you’ve gotta have fun!
One of the main reasons I found myself teaching adults was because as a child they’d often had a teacher who made the whole experience torturous which lead to a fear of water. If you don’t enjoy the water, swimming becomes a way to survive only….which suggests there is something to ‘survive’.
If you create an environment which allows a child or an adult to just feel the water around them, feel the properties, taste it, swallow some – then they’re more likely to be inquisitive and explore what they can do in the water – dive, sink to the bottom, float, glide, create bubbles. There is no end to what water can do and what you can do it in and so it’s not just necessary to learn the skill of swimming, but to enjoy everything around that skill.
This post was inspired by a swimming experience yesterday. Steve and I woke at 5am and made our way to Shelley Beach (nr Manly) where we met 5 or so other swimmers prepped to complete a 6 hour ocean swim. Most of them were training for the English Channel. My goal was a 2 hour swim.
Steve was my paddler and jumped in his kayak. Strapped to the back was a shark guard. This is a device which has a long tube floating out the back of the kayak, emanating an electrical pulse. [Tip: don’t touch the tube, it’s for sharks!]
I entered the water feeling quite apprehensive. More so because I had never had to swim with a shark guard nearby and although it’s there to deter the sharks..I felt even more nervous! We left the bay but shortly after, Steve capsized. There was a flurry as he got himself back on the kayak, and I tried to swim after our bottles and snacks! Steve was off though….so I had to leave the bottles floating away. I then caught up only to find myself in a swarm of jellyfish…panic set in. I switched to breaststroke to calm myself and just get through. THEN…Steve was tossed over again…and this time, he landed on the shark guard giving him a mighty electrical shock. The look on his face will keep me chuckling for a very long time! We decided to head back to shore and not venture out any further. The sea was very choppy and there was a big swell making it quite awkward for kayaks.
It was at this point that I flag – you’ve gotta have a laugh! Although it looked unlikely I would complete my swim, I was looking upon this situation with a great delight, enjoying the fact that Steve and I had shared this humour together, we’d both faced some fears and we’d laughed about them. I was more proud of that than I ever would be finishing a 3km ocean swim.
We both had a paddle around the shore, discovering baby stingrays and the odd jellyfish. (Fun fun fun!). When the other swimmers made it back for their feed (90 minutes later) I decided to jump back in with them and complete this swim. One of the guys also training for Rottnest was now a bit slower so I was able to keep up with him. We didn’t have a kayaker next to us – it was just 2 swimmers and the sea!
Whatever you do, embrace it. If it’s in the water, feel it, let it hold you. Above everything else, remember, you’ve gotta have a laugh!