Survival Swimming Lesson

by Ronan from Ireland

After lunch I changed into a dry tee-shirt and tracksuit for the advanced swimming lesson. This is the most practical outfit when teaching in the pool. Soon the first swimmers arrived. The management said that about six people would come.

Two boys and a girl showed up just in surf shorts. When they realised that this swimming class was done fully clothed they asked if they could borrow some clothes. I issued them with polo shirts, hooded jogging suits and anoraks. Once they were dressed they looked happy and keen to get wet.

The two guys who were in the pool earlier appeared in jeans and tee-shirts, with hoodies draped around their shoulders. Two women came dressed in tracksuit bottoms with long sleeve tee-shirts, one carrying an anorak, the other a long hiking poncho. This reminded me to bring out ponchos for all, as they are part of the training, and give hoodies to the last two.


We all sat down in a circle for the theory briefing. I explained why swimming in clothes is an important survival skill. They learned that swimming front crawl fully clothed is about as fast as breaststroke, but costs more energy.

Other topics were clothing layers, fabrics, and weights of wet clothes in and out of the water. It came as a surprise to many that clothes don't drag you down, only slow you down. This they were to experience next.

Into the Pool

One could see them shiver with anticipation as they put on the hoodies and jogging pants for the swimming practice.

I took them to the shallow end and demonstrated how to enter the water safely. Then they slowly waded into the water, observing how clothes feel when they get wet. This was a pleasant new experience for most them.

When they were about chest deep in the pool they put up the hoods and submerged to swim underwater. This was quite a challenge for some but great fun. They found that the jogging pants and hoodies slowed them down a lot in the water, but is was easy to float in them.

When they practised the different swim strokes, they found that front crawl is not as fast as it is without clothes or in a speed suit. It is almost as slow as breaststroke because you have to lift the heavy sleeves of the hoodie out of the water with every arm stroke.

I demonstrated the different swim strokes and how they relate to survival swimming in clothes. They really enjoyed the training, much more fun than swimming lengths. All this effort helped them build strength and stamina.

Finally they came out and put the ponchos on. This was the fun part of the lesson. I showed them how to secure the poncho with the waistband or the strap between the legs, so it could not go over the head.

They slowly waded in from the shallow end and swam a few lengths. This was easier than they thought as the ponchos wrapped around the body when moving forward. Standing still, the ponchos floated around them. At the end of the session we sat in the shallow end, huddled in our ponchos to keep warm, and talked about what we've learned and how much fun we had.

I draped the ponchos over the railing by the pool and took the other clothes into the drying room. After a shower to rinse my clothes I dressed in a dry pool attendant uniform and took over from Luke for the afternoon shift.