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5 things I learnt in my first swimming lesson for adults

(and no, swimming wasn’t one of them)

I’m 26 years old and I can’t swim. Yep, that’s right. You might ask me why I didn’t learn as a kid like everyone else did but I have no answer for that… I was busy with other stuff and didn’t really have any interest in learning to swim.

I’ve been on quite a lot of boat trips over the last year and found myself wondering whether I’d get any enjoyment out of them if I could stop panicking about being far from dry land (which is all I can think about when I’m on a boat).

Over Easter, during a boat trip to White Island (which I really should write about here), we had to do the final bit of the trip in a little inflatable boat from the bigger boat onto the island. With no life-jacket. Apparently the crew told us we could request life-jackets if we wanted but I was too busy dealing with my seasickness to hear them and got on the inflatable boat without one, like everyone else. The short trip on the little boat must have only taken about 3 or 4 minutes but felt like a lifetime and I had to make a massive effort to keep myself together and avoid screaming in panic. Oh yes. *That* bad.

I came back from that trip determined to learn to swim and looked up adult swimming lessons. It turns out that the place I signed up for at first has a waiting list of nearly one year (which does make me wonder about all those people saying “how can you not know how to swim, living in New Zealand?” since apparently there are lots of adults trying to learn now). I quickly found another place near home, though, and am now on week 1 of a 10 week swimming course for beginners.

On my first ever swimming lesson, last Tuesday, I didn’t learn to swim. But I learnt a few other things:

1. It’s not about the technique

Well, it is a little bit about the technique. But it’s mostly about feeling confident in the water. Like everything else, it takes time, practice and a lot of patience.

2. Fear is a bitch

It’s not the lack of skills that holds you back – it’s the fear and the notion of risk. Adults have a harder time learning to swim than kids do because we are aware of the risk and we fear. It sucks and it takes a while to get over it. I still haven’t, obviously.

3. It’s not as embarrassing as you think

Sure, you get to the swimming pool and there are people doing laps faster than you can say “holy michael phelps!” but it’s okay. They’re not going to be staring and making fun of you, trust me. Plus, the people in your group class know as much about swimming as you do. It’s okay.

4. It’s way more exhausting than you think

I went into my first class thinking “what? only 30 minutes per lesson? that’s nothing!”. Five minutes later, I was ready to get out of the water and have a little nap. It’s damn tiring when you don’t really know how to breathe underwater.

5. It’s an important skill to have

Ok, I’m lying, I didn’t learn this *in* the swimming pool. I learnt this over the years and it led me to enroll for the lessons.

I have my second lesson next week and won’t have a little yellow board to hold onto, apparently. Pretty scary stuff for a risk-aware adult but I shall try to live to tell the tale.

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