I grew up in the water, I was in swimming lessons before preschool and there is an embarrassing picture of splashing around donning a wet rattail at 6 years old (hey, it was the 80s).
Lakes, rivers and pools were my favorite places to be. Floating on my back on a sunny day is the most relaxed I get. Because of my love of the water, I never really think about swimming; it’s like walking, I just do it. So to hear that people couldn’t swim always confused me.
A recent survey by the Red Cross was beyond confusing.
To hear that among the 80 percent of people who said they could swim, just 56 percent of actually had a good understanding of very basic safety skills was mind blowing.
“These critical water safety skills, also known as “water competency,” are the ability to: step or jump into the water over your head; return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute; turn around in a full circle and find an exit; swim 25 yards to the exit; and exit from the water. If in a pool, you must be able to exit without using the ladder,” wrote the Red Cross.
Most boaters learned these skills young, very young and countless others should probably have learned them in physical education. But another part of the survey shows they didn’t. Just 40 percent of parents said their child knows those swimming safety basics, but 92 percent said their children was likely to play in the water this summer.
I’m just another bachelor, so I’m not going to criticize these parents, but those numbers just don’t add up.
Beyond basic life skills, I find all these statistics very concerning for our industry.
The industry is struggling to get minorities and younger folks into boating, but if this many Americans are wary about going in the water, they’re probably not eager to hop on a boat.
So what can be done? While I’d like to twist everybody’s arms and just make them get some swimming lessons, I’m fairly certain I’d get some pushback.
Any marinas or dealers agonizing about their next event, however, might want to include some swimming safety games or training. Teaming up with the local gym or swimming instructor could provide some mutual benefits as well.
After all, any way the industry can make people feel at ease around water is great for boating.