Swim Safe - swimming, fun, sand, and sun

Thursday, 24 August, 2017

Swim England’s Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer Mike Thompson wanted to experience the Swim Safe programme – so he volunteered at our sessions in Scarborough.

In this post Mike takes us through his day in the life of a Swim Safe Volunteer:  

I had a great day at Swim Safe Scarborough recently. OK, so the wetsuit they gave me was designed to fit a sporty sixteen year old but apart from that, the day was amazing! 

Upon arrival at Scarborough North Bay beach, there were just a handful of dog-walkers and café owners opening up for the day ahead. Initially, I wondered if we were really going to get enough people 'through the doors’. The answer was absolutely yes.

Around 100 kids enjoyed the free sessions on that day alone. The sun shone all day and by mid-day there were thousands enjoying the beach, with the Swim Safe tent and sessions right in the middle of all the crowds and fun. 

Helen Peterson, the Swim Safe Site Co-ordinator, greeted me with a smile and quickly got me hammering in pegs in the sand, putting up flags, and filling wetsuit cleaning tanks. We were based at the Lifeguard centre, and they were all super-friendly and welcoming.

The children for the first session started arriving. We logged them into an electronic register, checked for medical conditions and photo permissions…then the difficult bit…finding the right size wetsuits for them!

Those regular Swim Safe volunteers seemed to just glance at the child, hand them the wetsuit and the child slipped into them like a glove. My first couple of attempts made the poor child look like a tent or a pressure-packed kid! However, soon got that right and learnt the top-tip of putting the child’s feet into plastic bags so they slide into the wetsuit with ease!

I donned a wetsuit and joined a session to see exactly what the children are taught. It was brilliant. We split into 4 groups of 5 and Tony, the swim-teacher for my group, got us crawling across the beach like soldiers to warm up. Then it was talking through the key survival tips, including strokes, huddle, ‘crocodile’ and how to gain the attention of the lifeguard. Then, we were off into the sea.

The children were absolutely loving it…and so was I! Tony shared top tips and guidance for survival - in a really engaging way…most importantly we were all learning a very serious topic through fun. 

Once back-ashore, I helped some more and spoke with all colleagues and volunteers. There were many inspiring stories, one of which was meeting Donna from the Andrew McGeown Legacy Fund.

Donna tragically lost her brother to drowning in Scarborough after he went into the sea to try to save his dog. She has responded by raising funds to support Swim Safe in Scarborough. We both agreed - children doing Swim Safe is vital…and parents will learn alot too.

When can I sign up for next Summer please!? 

Thanks to Gareth and Helen for making this day happen…and to all colleagues and volunteers who make Swim Safe such a brilliant scheme.