The Other Side

Our son Stan qualified as a swimming teacher last year. He’s in Penzance, doing private lessons for adults and kids, like I started doing when I was his age.

We wanted all our kids to be comfortable in the water from an early age but we didn’t push them into swimming clubs. Emily, our youngest, is a beach lifeguard but, because she didn’t train when younger to swim fast, she struggles with the timed swim in the pool every year. So a part of her wishes we had pushed her, or at least taught her to swim a bit faster.

Because of his upbringing, a couple of things Stan will be free of as a teacher are, 1. the idea that learning to swim, and being a swimmer, means doing the strokes right (although he knows them and swims them well), and 2. the feeling that he himself is “a swimmer,” of lanes, clubs, races and events. Most swimming teachers tend to come from somewhere in this camp or, being outside it, look up to the campers.

But, in general, stars of the camp are, or have been, ‘serious’ swimmers,  red eyed teenagers forced out of bed until the joy has been sucked, systematically, from their dehydrated skin.

Adults who learn to swim sort of dip into the system. As they get better they may want to do some swimming up and down, in the leisure centre, for exercise. Arriving at the pool to venture into the world of recreational swimming, they’ll quickly work out the rules of swimming, clockwise or anti clockwise, in their appropriate lane.

As the ability for continuous swimming improves and confidence grows, there will be moments of losing oneself, of rhythm and coordination. The feeling of the cardiovascular system and the limbs being stretched as the timing of the strokes comes together. This can become quite addictive, even an obsession. Just keep swimming. Eat, sleep, swim. I swim therefore I am. Total swimming.

But, at the other side of all this, sometimes actually beneath you, hidden in plain sight, is pure, clear water, untainted by our striving.

And when you stop swimming and it’s just you and the water – the calm, quiet, contained water – and you stop, and submit to its welcoming acceptance,  truly enter and merge with it… that might be what getting to the other side means. 

You’ve got to start somewhere but you don’t have to get anywhere! 

Check out Stan’s lessons if you’re in Cornwall.

Please share: