Confession: I Don’t Know How To Swim

Totally not me at the beach! | ShutterStock.com

When I was 2 years old I sat at the edge of my uncle’s pool. My mom specifically said, “Do not go in there. OK?” I remember this vividly. As soon as she turned her head I jumped in. I can still see that crystal blue water and my uncle diving in after me, his image getting closer and closer, as I sunk to the bottom of the pool. I just PLUNKED to the floor like a pile of stones.

It’s safe to say ever since then my relationship with water has been pretty meh. Growing up, instead of doing the backstroke or doggy paddle in the deep end of the pool, I piggy-backed off my dad and big bro. At the water park I was too scared to go on any of the ginormous slides because I was worried I would drown once I reached the bottom. The beach was by far the scariest. I could be carried out with the current into the middle of nowhere. The ocean looked so boundless I could just disappear without anyone noticing. I made sandcastles instead.

During summer camp one year I had swimming lessons every single day and never made it passed “guppy” level. I remember wearing that awful red wristband that said I could only hang out in parts of the lake that were 2-feet deep. Worst of all the lessons didn’t help one bit. While all of my friends from the “loser end of the lake” graduated into “gold fish,” I just flailed around like a maniac until I PLUNKED to the ground.

Years later, I still can’t swim. I have zero finesse in the water. I can float . . . sort of. The only thing that has changed is: I’m not afraid. Years of exhaustively trying to learn something I just can’t figure out how to do made me less scared. I’d plunk my head in and out of the water just to get used to it. I’d hold my breath to see how long I could. I’d tell myself, “It’s just water–it’s not trying to kill you.” Being less fearful made me realize the current isn’t going to carry me off if I’m just standing neck deep in the water. Water parks are safe enough for people who can’t swim to go on the rides. I can actually have fun–in the water! I don’t have to miss out!

Nothing bad is going to happen as long as I know my limitations. Don’t go too far out. Don’t go where it’s too deep. Don’t be afraid.

Can you swim? How old were you when you learned? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Lise

    My boyfriend taught me to swim. He is a lifeguard and water polo player.

    • PAUL BAKER

      As a man training martial arts i was in a sauna with my girlfriend in a hotel
      with a pool and she said come and have a swim i said no not now she said
      you cannot swim can you i said no she then laughed and said men i was so embarrassed when she came out of the pool she said sorry and taught me to swim in a week i was 26 she was 38 i am 61 now and a good
      swimmer.

  • Pineapple lover

    When I just learned to walk I fell in 8 foot water and stopped breathing. They did CPR and got me alive again ever since then I am scared of swimming. I love water just don’t like to swim. My mom told all my friends I can’t swim and I’m really embarrassed.

  • Jane

    I’m 18 and I learnt to swim pretty much just after I could walk. I come from a very nautical family so was plunged into the “deep end” at a very early stage of my life. By the time I was 7, I had joined a swimming club and started swimming competitively when I was 9. From there I progressed to an international standard during my teens but unfortunately had to give up the intense commitment to training soon after going to University. I have grown up on the water – I love everything about the sea and the water and you will usually find me in the water more than on the land. I’ve tried just about every water sport you can do and I can’t get enough of it.

    However, my boyfriend (of about 3 months) cannot swim and when he told me I was very surprised because I just presumed almost everyone learnt how to swim. Being with him I have definitely found a new understanding as to the reasons why people haven’t learnt to swim or don’t swim.
    Being with me he has become more keen to learn as he recognises most of my life revolves around the water. But, he is really nervous, about the embarrassment more than anything, and I don’t know if anyone knows of any tips that can help him pick up the concepts of swimming easily without too much worrying on his behalf. Being a retired competitive swimmer it is so difficult to teach someone the basics of swimming when you don’t know how to do this the right way!

  • tallwithglasses

    My mom never took me to swimming lessons, I just learned sorta. I’m not the best, but I can float for 20 secs. I don’t know how to hold my breath good.

  • dancer4lyphe

    when i just turned 5 was when my mom made me go to swimming classes and im so glad now that she did. im 16 and i love the water like crazy now.

  • Aisling Hart

    I’ve known how to swim ever since I was a wee little lass. I live in Florida, where you can’t go two miles without bumping into a lake, so swimming is kind of essential down here. A friend of my grandmother, a nice English lady, taught me the basics in her pool while I was in preschool, and then I took regular lessons at the local pool. I think that everyone should learn how to swim, just as a safety precaution. I’m not exactly at home in the water, but I feel a lot safer knowing that if I were to fall into the lake at the edge of my property while no one else is around, I wouldn’t drown. Plus, it’s a really great way to get exercise!

  • Chloe

    I’m 15 and still a non-swimmer unfortunately. I’ve tried countless times to take a chance and learn how to swim (I even tried having a 12 year old teach me how to swim. That’s how bad it is for me.) but I can’t do it. It’s not that I’m afraid of the water. I love water. It’s the thought of drowning or sinking to the bottom of the ocean or swimming pool that scares me. And remembering a few summers ago incident that involved a friend of mine and a swimming pool doesn’t help me either. I wish I could grasp the courage to swim. Even my boyfriend can swim, and he’s talked about us swimming together at his place over summer but I have yet to confess that I can’t swim. He’s a year younger than me (don’t judge me) and can swim. He’s a very sweet guy and he would never judge me for something that I can or can’t do. He’s supportive and caring of my limitations and feelings. But how can I even tell him that I can’t swim?

  • Cindy

    I’m 15 and haven’t learned to swim yet. I’m a bit scared to be drown since like ever. But I do enjoy being on the pool with one of those thingys that helps you stay floating on the surface.

  • jaime

    Ive been able to swim by mysslf scince i was about one and half but i first had lessons when i was 6 months old and at primary (elementry) schools here its comoulsery to have lessone at least once a year everyday for a week

  • Selena

    I’m now 13 and i’ve been swimming since i was about 1 and a half ( i know pretty freaky) but it just came naturally i can hold my breathe for longer than a minute (about a minute and 30 seconds) and i just love it <3

  • Kiki

    I started at swimming lessons when I was six months old and have been swimming since. I have been a lifeguard and instructor since the age of sixteen. The amount of courses I’ve taken have taught me many things outside of the pool like confidence, leadership and good self-image.

  • basschick

    i can not swim either, do not worry. i looove water but i am also scared of it… i wish i could but i do not have daily access to a pool or something so how am i supose to learn? if it was a life or death situation, i think i could force myself to live. haha

  • iluvgrapefruit

    Good 4 u 🙂

  • Emily

    Im 16 4’7 and i still cant swim I’ve taken swimming lessons for years and i just stopped i know where i can stop in the pool i can float sorta im just not the swimming type my family where life guards as teens and i can barely swim i do go to water parks and have fun there some of my friends know i cant swim but does it stop me going to the beach no i just lay down and get a tan or something i wont go to far out in the water bc im tiny and could be swept away by the waves and i use that i don’t care if people know i cant swim but if i have to swim to safety ill get there very slowly but ill get there i at least know enough and i can swim enough to get there it just takes me longer