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Swimming for Your Life


Swimming for Your Life

As someone who has worked as both a lifeguard and a swim instructor for a few years now, I have learned just how real the danger of drowning and the need for education in swimming are. Even though it might be easy for some people who don’t know how to swim to fall into the “stay in the shallow end and everything will be fine” mindset, it’s certainly not a fool-proof plan. According to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning.” Needless to say, water can present some unexpected difficulties at the worst possible times. The best course of action to deal with this is to be as prepared as possible in swimming and water safety skills.

The issue is especially relevant in this area. Sonoma County Regional Parks Programs Manager David Robinson said, “It’s paramount that people learn how to swim in Sonoma County.” He pointed out the many bodies of water that are in our own backyard including the ocean, the Russian River, lakes, ponds, and pools. Local residents are surrounded by water, which makes competence in swimming and water safety all the more necessary.

Water Safety Programs

The good news is that there are multiple organizations and programs that are working towards helping Sonoma County residents to be safer in the water. The Sonoma County Water Safety Coalition, a partnership between the Red Cross, the Army Corps of Engineers, the sheriff’s department, and city pools, works to find ways to teach and train the public on how to swim and be safe in the water. One program that is offered all through the county is “Vamos a Nadar.” It has been running for more than 10 years and provides a day of swimming lessons for kids and training in water safety for the parents.

Running these organizations and programs are numerous people who work hard to ensure that as many people as possible are safe in the water. One such person, Don Hicks, who is the recreation supervisor for the City of Santa Rosa has been active in aquatics throughout his life. Having worked as a lifeguard himself, seen drownings, and been a part of serious rescues, he explained how his experiences have given him a drive to provide education in swimming and water safety to the public. 

Hicks said that a common pattern he’s seen in people is a fear of the water that hinders them from learning these skills. “If anyone’s reading this,” he said, “I challenge you to really overcome your fear and go to a pool. Most pools have great instructors, great environment, non-judgmental where we help to overcome fear in a gentle way.”

According to Robinson, the work of the Sonoma County Water Safety Coalition and Sonoma County Regional Parks has helped for there to be a decrease in drowning deaths within the past 10 to 15 years. He said, “We have access to all these areas that are gorgeous, and they’re great to recreate on, and so we want people to be safe out there.”

Learning to swim isn’t just about being safe. It’s also about opening up a whole new world of activities such as competitive swimming and diving, water polo, or just having more to do when you hang out at the pool or the beach. Personally, swimming has become one of my favorite pastimes, and this is coming from someone who used to be terrified to go into deep water. These skills come in handy all throughout life, and every Sonoma County resident should make an effort to gain such a valuable proficiency.