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Kids, don’t just learn to swim, swim to survive
Re. “Learn to swim” (Opinion, The Tri-City News, Aug. 9).
Signing up our children for a few sets of swimming lessons at the local pool may not be enough when our kids hit open waters.
As a mother of two, I signed both my kids up for swimming lessons when they were in elementary school. They took some at City Centre Aquatic Complex (CCAC) but most of their lessons were at Eagle Ridge Pool.
For several summers in a row, I watched them grow and blossom in swimming skill. I felt confident that they would be OK in the water.
My daughter didn’t show too much interest in swimming beyond her elementary years. My son occasionally went with a friend or two to the CCAC to swim. Even though he only went every now and then, I never worried about his safety in the water.
But swimming in a pool is a completely different scenario than swimming in open water.
In a pool, there is a defined boundary from end to end. There are lane markers and fellow swimmers within arm’s length. In addition, the local pool usually has several lifeguards on duty supervising. There is, practically speaking, very little chance of anyone losing a life in a community pool.
Open waters, however, are another matter. There is no defined boundary. There are no lifeguards on duty at local beaches. And there are other factors to keep in mind.
The temperature is not regulated. There are currents to contend with. Without the lane markers, it is easy to become disoriented. The colder water lends itself to more muscle cramping. Panic could set in. You might gulp some water down your lungs and drown. Any myriad of reasons could be your demise in open waters.
On July 21, 2013, I lost my son, Michael, at Sasamat Lake. He was the 23-year-old man who was airlifted out of White Pine Beach.
He had just graduated from Simon Fraser University with distinction in June 2013. He was a very intelligent, highly engaged student who had a huge heart for social justice issues. He was not one for taking huge risks.
I’m sure he never thought swimming out to a raft with a friend would end in death, but it did.
Many people dove in to try to save my son. I am very touched by society’s willingness to forget self and seek to save another.
I am also thankful that at least one person on the beach happened to have lifeguard certification that day. He managed to perform CPR on my son and was able to get a pulse back and a breath.
If there had been any chance of him surviving, it was because people cared and at least one was certified in CPR.
Since his death, I have emailed the Lifesaving Society of BC and Yukon to discuss whether regular swimming lessons adequately prepare young people for swimming at local beaches. The response has been that there are, indeed, differences between swimming in a pool and swimming in a lake such as Sasamat.
Lifesaving BC has a program called Swim to Survive. For a local pool, the usual swimming lessons might suffice but, for open waters, Swim to Survive may be necessary.
According to the Canadian Drowning Report 2013, young men between the ages of 18 and 35 years are most at risk for drowning; this is because this age group is known for its risk-taking behaviour.
I’m here to say that your son or daughter does not even need to be a risk-taker for this to happen. It doesn’t have to be at an obscure part of the lake where no one is around. It can happen in full view, like it did with my son at Sasamat.
A few swimming lessons at the local pool might suffice for a leisure centre but in open waters, I recommend you swim to survive.
Ann McDonell, Port Moody