Last night or over the weekend, a teenager stepped off a ledge into deep water at the Red River in Shreveport, LA. In the next few minutes, 6 of his friends tried to save him. All drowned but one. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38533071/ns/us_news-life .
The article leaves an unknowing reader thinking that deep water is dangerous; that a sinkhole full of water is dangerous. I beg to differ. The distinction to be made means the difference between life and death.
People who think they can swim when they can't are dangerous. People who teach that swimming means stroking to shallow water are, well, dangerous too. People who don't understand what "knowing how to swim" means can be found everywhere.
It's quite likely that some of those who drowned would have said they can swim. This is what people believe "out there." And in your neighborhood.
There needs to be a widely accepted definition of "I can swim." And the definition should be: "I can rely on myself for my safety in deep water as long as I need to, or at least for an hour or two."
If you're an instructor who is teaching people to stroke to the side of the pool and get out, if you're letting parents think their kids can swim before they've rested and paddled around in deep water for 10-15 minutes, please stop today.
At the same time, if you work for a municipality, I urge you to not relent from pressuring the swimming programs run by your town to teach people how the water works and how to prevent panic. These are the only things people need to know. Forget about strokes for now. Those are extra and they come after the basics. First we need to get every single citizen to be able to swim. Swim first, strokes later!
A comprehensive program
in how to teach this is available and saves lives.
An article about the learn-to-swim class was in the Sunday Sarasota Herald Tribune August 1.
This is not an ad. It's a public service. This information should be available everywhere.