Why Swim? – Deborah Nedelman, 2014

Deborah Nedelman

Why Swim?

One Saturday earlier this summer I sat at a booth at the bustling Bayview Farmers Market and asked folks to tell me their swim stories. Being a swimmer myself, I was pretty surprised by how many island dwellers had no such stories, by how many were non-swimmers. Here we are surrounded by the wet stuff and if you’re ever going to get off the rock you need to cross it somehow. What do people all do, cross their fingers and hope for the best every time they board the ferry? Must be tough to stick crossed fingers in one’s ears to avoid hearing the ‘important safety announcement’ that does reference something about water, I believe.

There were a few folks with swim experiences who had not only lived to tell them, but who recalled them with great enthusiasm and even joy. Yes, swimming can be fun! In fact, being proficient in the water can become positively addictive and life changing. Take the story Dan Falkenbury told about his childhood in Hawaii.

Let me take a moment here to register one of the most common responses I got when I asked folks if they were swimmers: “It’s too cold to swim here!” Yes, well, Puget Sound is a bit chillier than the waters that surround the Hawaiian Islands. But, as Dan informed us, the numbers of non-swimmers in his 6th grade class in Honolulu, where no one worries much about hypothermia, significantly outnumbered the swimmers. In fact, in a class of 30 plus students, only 3 kids raised their hands when the teacher asked who knew how to swim. This seemed to explain the number of recent childhood drownings. The school began requiring to all their students to take swimming lessons. One of Dan’s classmates took those swimming lessons to heart and became a lifeguard. And Dan, whose father had swum with Johnny Weissmuller, went on to become a competitive swimmer. “Living on a island, you’d think everyone should know how to swim.” Dan told me.

Don’t let the cold water scare you off. Start in a pool and you just might discover your inner fish.