Bushra Azrar, Muhammad Khan, Grant Tully and Shannon Tully kick up a froth during the World Largest Swimming Lesson Thursday morning. Photo by Stephen K. Peeples.
“So I could be in the Guinness Book of World Records!” exclaimed 8-year-old Grant Tully of Valencia, telling a visitor why he was among the local youngsters in the pool at Academy Swim Club Thursday morning.
It was part of an international attempt to set a new record for the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson — and promote water safety at the same time.
“We had 44 people in the water, total — 36 kids and 8 instructors,” said Nikki Miller, owner of Academy Swim Club on Smyth Drive in Valencia and founder of the Aquatics Safety Awareness Program (A.S.A.P.). That’s just two shy of the pool’s water occupancy limit, she said.
Organizers of the simultaneous splash called for more than 20,000 children and instructors in six countries to take the same half-hour lesson, while focusing attention on how to stay safe at the public pool, the beach, backyard pools or even in the bathtub. In California alone, drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental death among children under 5, Miller said.
“The whole point is to bring awareness to drowning and water safety. because the month that most people drown in the world is June,” Miller said. “Our (number) is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 20,000, but we’re all doing our part.”
The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson was organized by coalition of the nation’s top aquatics organizations including the American Red Cross, Aquatics International, the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the Swim for Life Foundation, the United States Swim School Association and others. They tied in with local city governments, first responders, hospitals, pediatricians, preschools, swim schools like Academy Swim Club, and Olympic swimmers to make a big splash with water safety.
Gold Medalists Rowdy Gaines and Janet Evans were among the athletes who championed the event to help spread the word that drowning can be prevented through awareness and training. “They were Skype-ing from different places including the center for the Olympic trials,” Miller said.
The half-hour lesson covered general water safety, how to enter the water safely, breathing and submerging, floating on the back and on the stomach, and a few basic strokes, like the front glide, kicking at the wall, and the front crawl.
Anjanette Castellon of Saugus took her two kids, Isabella, 8, and Natalia, 4, to the Academy for the lesson because she also thinks water safety is “pretty important. I want them to learn to swim, and they enjoy swimming. They have been taking lessons for a while now and look forward to the swimming pool and their lessons.”
Grant Tully takes swimming lessons at the Academy every Thursday, and so does his big sister, Shannon, 10, who said she was also excited to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. But she also knows how important it is for all kids to know at least the basics about being safe around the water.
“I think they should know like at least how to float so if they jump in the pool and don’t know how to swim and do like strokes and at least go back to the side, so they won’t drown,” she said.
Around 8:30 a.m., Miller called it a wrap and the kids headed outside the Academy building for presentation of medals and certificates of participation in the what she is sure will have set a new Guinness Record for the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson.
“It went great, very well-organized,” Miller said as all the kids lined up. “I want to thank Justine Kerrick putting it together and Gloria Locke for getting everybody out here to spread the word through the rest of our community.
“I’m just thrilled with the results here,” she said. “The kids had a great time and all went home with certificates that they broke the world record, and medals, and this is an Olympic year so this is a big thing. So we had fun, and they’re hungry and they’re all going out to breakfast now.”
For more information, contact Nikki Miller at 661-702-8585 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.swimforlife.com.