The basics of learning to swim

July 29, 2015

Wherever or whatever the water-based activity, a prerequisite is the ability to swim, and everyone who takes to the water should be a confident swimmer. Here are some tips that will help you learn to swim.

The basics of learning to swim

A question of confidence

Improving your swimming technique or even learning from scratch is not difficult if you feel relaxed in the water. Some learners fear the water, perhaps due to an unhappy experience or a lack of familiarity.

  • Learning to swim early in life is a distinct advantage; babies seem to have no fear of the water and can be swimming well by the age of 18 months.
  • Learners can best gain confidence in the controlled environment of a swimming pool where exercises such as submerging the head can be done in relative safety.
  • Flotation devices in the form of a kick board or, for a small child, a polyfoam "egg" strapped to the back or to each arm, can also be used to take away fear of the water and so build confidence.
  • One easily taught, confidence-boosting skill is treading water. Standing upright with the arms outspread just below the surface, move each forearm in a constant circle; at the same time move the legs in an "eggbeater" motion.
  • A variation of treading water, and a potential life saver to an exhausted swimmer, is to lie on the back with the head well down in the water and the face exposed, looking skywards. With arms and legs spread well apart, a swimmer can stay afloat in this position for long periods.
  • For many people, summer means the beach and the most egalitarian pastime of all — an invigorating plunge into the ­foaming surf and, with a little luck, a thrilling ride back to the sand buoyed up in the froth of a breaking wave.

Tips for water safety

  • Swim between the red-and-yellow flags at the beach; boardriders should keep well away from the flagged area.
  • Always supervise children.
  • Wear a buoyancy jacket for water sports such as yachting and kayaking.
  • Find out about tides, currents and rips before going out on any kind of water.
  • Do not overestimate your swimming ability and stay too long in the water.
  • Do not struggle directly against a current; swim across the current to safety.
  • Attach a leg rope when using a bodyboard or surfboard.
  • In the tropics, do not swim in the ocean during­ the marine stinger (box jellyfish) season, from about December to March.

Learning to swim is a rewarding experience at any age. Just remember to follow these simple rules and make sure to swim in safe water until you get a feel for it.

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